The music documentary is attempting to branch out, up and away from conventions that were getting a little tired and predictable: experiments like Nick Cave’s 20,000 Days On Earth are real attempts at originality and for The Possibilities… think Terrence Malick directing a documentary on former Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins. Interested? Read on.
Don’t go expecting a safe trawl through Orange Juice records or Collins solo material or a series of fans and musicians coming up with new ways to describe his genius. And don’t hope that directors James Hall and Edward Lovelace have unearthed rare Postcard footage for your viewing pleasure. No. This is something different entirely: it’s twenty-five minutes before Edwyn Collins actually appears.
Okay, this opens with a brief snippet of Collins playing his 1995 hit A Girl Like You on Conan O’Brien but then everything is stripped back. We get images we can’t actually make out. Then legs kick underwater. There’s a wintry landscape. Some shots of idyllic Scottish countryside, a woman walks through a field. Over this, there is a voice trying to say something but the words don’t come. He stutters, stumbles. Finally, a coherent sentence emerges: "I’m struggling to come to terms with who I am."
More images. A house. A window. A door. Finally, we’re inside. There’s a figure with his back to the camera. We catch a glimpse of the side of his face. A sideburn. Is this Edywn Collins? Yes. Have the directors spent the guts of a half hour trying to visually represent Collins’s state of mind and struggles? Yes. Isn’t that strange to see in a music doc? Big time.
In 2005 Collins suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. Then another. Then he struggled with aphasia. He could only say four things, which he would repeat: ‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Grace Maxwell’ (his wife), and 'The possibilities are endless.' He didn’t recognise himself when looking at old interviews, can’t connect his appearance on Top of the Pops. When played one of his songs, he asks, "Did I write that?"
The second half of the documentary – his road to recovery, his comeback attempt, rehearsals, recording, gigs – aren’t as visually intoxicating as the opening one, but the delightful Morrisssey-esque short film – starring son William as his father and Submarine’s Yasmin Paige as a young Grace Maxwell – which is spliced throughout suggest a Hall/Lovelace feature debut shouldn’t be too far away.