Thanks to those fine folk at The Watershed, we were fortunate to see a preview showing of The Possibilities Are Endless a film that shines a light of the changing world of Edwyn Collins, since the brain haemorrhages that nearly took his life in 2005. This was followed by a Q & A hosted by Mark Cosgrave with the directors of the film, Edward Lovelace and James Hall, stars of the film Edwyn Collins and Grace Maxwell. Then to top that, a short acoustic set from Edwin with Carwyn Ellis. Yep, quite a night!
Fans of Edwyn will already be familiar with the bones of the story. The irascible, playful, cantankerous man whose musical output with Orange Juice and during his solo career pretty much set the template for witty, intelligent guitar pop for several decades, suddenly hit with a devastating condition which threatened his life and stripped him of the tools of communication that had been his calling card for so long. For a while, one of the few things that Edwyn could say was “The possibilities are endless” hence the title of the film.
There was a beautiful TV documentary made about the subject a few years ago, which is well worth seeing. Even more highly recommended is the book “Falling & Laughing” written by Grace Maxwell. It’s an extraordinary book charting the tortured path through the years of recovery that Edwyn, Grace and son William took. It is the most moving, yet hugely practical, books that I have read. If you have any interest in the strength of the human spirit when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, then please, get yourself a copy.
Back then to the film. Lovelace and Hall have taken the bold route telling the story of the last nine years in an expressionistic way. Attempting to put us inside the brain of Edwyn as he attempts to cope with his radically changed situations. As viewers we are often confused and disorientated as rapid cuts are followed by periods of slow black emptiness, then repetition. Confusion abounds, during the Q&A Edwyn himself said that the film was very accurate at capturing his feelings as he struggled to cope with his new situation.
The film charts the pleasing steps towards recovery that Edwyn has made, making much of move back to Helmsdale in the northeast of Scotland. It’s a beautiful, uncompromising landscape that serves as a stunning backdrop to the audio interviews that Lovelace and Hall recorded with Edwyn and Grace. It’s an approach that helps to avoid overt sentimentality, something that it’s clear both Edwyn and Grace would have little time for.
In 2005 the news of Edwyn’s situation spread quickly amongst friends and fans. Two of our friends have been close to Edwyn and Grace, so it was lovely to see them all chatting away happily together after the film (the picture above is of Jonny and Russ with Edwyn). We, well remember the updates that William would post on Myspace (yes it was a long time ago!), which spread the initially awful, then more optimistic news of Edwyn.
Miraculously in 2009 news emerged of some public performances. In November of that year we arranged to see Edwyn playing at The Bloomsbury Ballroom in London. It was one of those evening that was anticipated with both excitement and dread. The joy at the prospect of seeing Edwyn back on a stage was tempered with anxiety over his condition. When the time came for his band to take the stage we could see two figures in the wings struggling desperately. It was of course Edwyn and Grace, it seemed to take an eternity for them coax and cajole Edwin’s body up the steps to the stage. Then we saw the cane (Edwyn, as stylish as ever) emerge and he his made slow and unsteady way across the stage.
The crowd roared their approval, cheers mixing with tears as we watched the grim determination etched on Edwyn’s face as he took each slowly stuttering step. Finally he made it to centre stage and perched himself on top on flight case, looked to crowd and smiled. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so we did both. The band played and Edwyn sang, sang in a voice that for all his difficulties with speech, was as strong, joyous and gloriously unexpectedly, still obviously Edwyn. The gig was a triumph. Since then Edwyn has recorded two solo albums has set up AED records and taught himself to draw beautifuly using his left hand.
We have been fortunate to see Edwyn play on several occasions since that night. Each time he appears a little stronger, walking well, speaking more confidently and that famous wit of his getting ever sharper. It’s important to note, that always there at his side is of Grace and the film brilliantly captures the wonderful love that Edwyn and Grace share. The pair of them were both on top form at The Watershed, honest, funny and without a complete lack of ego they were keen to give credit for the film to the two young directors, rather than themselves.
It is already available to buy via iTunes and I understand that the film may be coming to The Cube in Bristol at some point. The amazing landscapes shown in the film are best seen on the large screen, so try to catch the film in the cinema if you can.