THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS
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by Margaret Chrystall
This was the first film to sell out in this year’s Inverness Film Festival programme. By James Hall and Edward Lovelace, the documentary is billed as "a hymn to happiness" and looks back over the story of the witty Orange Juice frontman, musician, singer and producer Edwyn Collins. With the devoted support of his wife Grace Maxwell, Edwyn is still recovering from two massive brain haemorrhages that hit him in 2005. But he has progressed a long way since the early days and has revived his music-writing career, his drawing and performing live. His latest album – soundtrack to the film – is newly-released this week in time for filmgoers to pick up a copy after the film and a short, exhilarating performance from Edwyn with David Page on guitar.
Helmsdale – where Edwyn’s grandfather had a house – has played a big part in his recovery, as well as in his past as a youngster.
At one point in the film, Grace says that soon after Edwyn’s haemorrhages, "I’d go close up to his ear and say ‘This’ll pass, love, and we’ll go to Helmsdale’. And: "I was thinking of things that woulds stimulate his brain and nothing mattered to him more than that place."
The film uses impressionistic images, sounds, off-camera interviews with Edwyn and Grace plus short dramatic scenes where Edwyn and Grace’s son William plays a young Edwyn, to illuminate the story so far including the couple’s own relationship and the ongoing journey forward with Edwyn’s music. The soundtrack created by Edwyn and two musician friends, Sebastian Lewsley and Carwyn Ellis, features new music, such as Quite Like Silver, as well as reworked and reimagined older songs such as Home Again and classic Don’t Shilly Shally. Plus, there’s a powerful song, Down The Line, from son Will. But as for the phrase behind the title of both film and album – The Possibilities Are Endless – which became almost like a mantra for Edwyn when little other language could be accessed from his brain, he’s not quite sure where it came from.
Asked in a short QnA with media personality Nicky Marr after the film on Sunday, Edwyn said of the phrase’s origins: "I don’t know – it’s puzzling. But I used to say it over and over again."
What happens: The film follows the story of Edwyn’s career from young, wise-cracking hipster of the 80s Glasgow Postcard label music scene through his illness, recovery and on to his latest album, working on music written for the film’s soundtrack. There’s a successful attempt to add the inside track on what has happened – to get inside the heads of both Edwyn and Grace to relive their experiences, how they felt and feel about their lives past and present. It’s an often touching, lyrical portrait of a relationship that is banter-fuelled, tested but realistic, courageous and caring. It’s anything but the "queasy, schmaltzy stuff" of which the couple have a horror, Grace confessed to the sell-out Eden Court audience on Sunday.
Best quote: There are many in this film, such as Edwyn: "My songs are like a meeting place to store my ideas. It’s a crazy way of understanding, but it works for me." And the touchingly honest confession from Grace: "I miss the old Edwyn who can play guitar, run up a hill, take charge of a [recording] desk, millions of things I wish he could still do…"
Who for: Fans of Edwyn Collins’ music and anyone who wants to see a living, breathing warts ‘n’all portrait of a couple dealing with one of life’s toughest tests but still pushing on with living their lives with passion and purpose, hatching exciting future plans – and making each other laugh.
Quick review: Documentary – with Helmsdale almost an extra character – that becomes a portrait of a marriage, hope, hard work and laughs, good and bad times – and great music.