Published Oct 16, 2014Although he's regarded as a one-hit-wonder in North America, Edwyn Collins forged a multi-decade career that's seen the Scottish singer move from founding member of influential indie-poppers Orange Juice to a successful solo career until a 2005 cerebral haemorrhage sidelined the musician, who subsequently suffered from aphasia and was unable to say more than a handful of phrases.
"The possibilities are endless" was one of the few things Collins was able to say following his stroke, and it's the thematic glue that holds together this doc of the same name. Directors James Hall and Edward Lovelace paint an impressionistic look at Collins' life today, mixing images from his hometown spliced with archival footage. Over it we hear Collins, still struggling with speech, and his partner Grace Maxwell exploring the incident in detail. Collins speaks of his physical helplessness while Maxwell details her own emotional struggle after doctors warn that Collins may never recover.
The film's opening imagery is purposely obtuse and hazy, mimicking Collins' own loss of memory and inability to communicate. As the film takes us through his ordeal — flashes of the past, relearning to read — he and Grace slowly emerge from the fog, with the film culminating in a live performance broadcast. Especially moving is a scene where Collins, unable to find the words, gets caught in a groove, repeating the same words over and over again. It's a painful reminder that despite the strides he's made, he still has a long way to go.
Best viewed as a companion to 2008's more straightforward biography Home Again, The Possibilities are Endless most resembles the film Kurt Cobain: About a Son, which paired Michael Azerrad's interviews with the late singer with images from Cobain's youth.
Knowledge of Collins' career isn't necessary, but nor is it explicitly laid out for viewers. Instead, The Possibilities are Endless is a moving portrait of a man trapped inside himself and his endlessly patient partner who helps save him from the breach.