The Possibilities Are Endless ★★★½

In the 80s, Edwyn Collins’ band Orange Juice completely led the post-punk Glasgow scene and took it by storm. In the 90s, Collins went solo to enjoy further success with the worldwide hit "A Girl Like You." But in 2005, he suffered two cerebral hemorrhages which paralyzed his right side and kept him immobile. The most energetic of men was left in hospital and struck with a wiped memory.

A rigorous regimen was formed. He strove to be resilient. Collins went through a constant push of physical rehabilitation to reclaim his motor skills, memory and language. Initially, his communication was limited to the fewest of phrases. There was the simple "yes" or "no" and in a bizarre twist of fate, he'd repeatedly say "the possibilities are endless". Another phrase he clung onto was "Grace Maxwell", the name of his longtime professional and personal partner. There was certainly a triumphant return inside of him.

The Possibilities Are Endless begins with an electrifying cut—jumping from the unmistakable riff of "A Girl Like You" to a disorienting sequence which shows the profoundly experimental. It's a 20 minute opener of Malickian lyricism and Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in a sense. Breathtaking vistas of his hometown Helmsdale gradually turn to half-formed underwater images. A faltering voiceover is heard. It's a trapping of sorts. Like being plunged to severe depths. This stylistic approach is intended to depict Collins' locked-in syndrome from a first person perspective.

Such an eschewing of the music documentary is rather commendable. You rarely see this type of beginning. It's bereft of talking heads, gold albums or archival greatest hits. Whether it's a filmic choice that offers insight to the real Edwyn may test some viewers' patience, though. It could seem maddeningly opaque to some. I managed to appreciate the originality to its genre. I even wondered if it'd maintain this type of challenging rhythm.

Naturally, it didn't. A simpler structure is built to introduce Edwyn’s wife Grace as she retells the events of his hemorrhage. Their relationship forms the clearest of pictures. Heartbreaking scenes include anything in which Edwyn struggles with his speech. The same can be said about her desire to want the old Edwyn back. She misses the man who can no longer play a guitar and rile the crowd. There's also the moments in which she recalls that he had no idea what to do with objects. She gazes nearby in controlled watchfulness and it hurts to see that.

Yet poignancy isn't afar. By contrast, absolute joy will mesh in a series of sequences that could sing volumes. It's evident as they take strolls together or laugh companionably. The portrait of a woman's devotion to her man's determination is very affecting. He wants to sing in front of people again. Similar things can be said as Edwyn evolves into a more optimistic person. Here's a different man than the one who barely moved from his chair. You want him to not just reconcile with his talents but also discover what lays ahead.

But he's not there yet. And neither are the film-makers. In just 79 minutes, they fuss around with another piece of tricky narrative structure. It's one which felt too distant for me. Surprisingly, it added little as a type of romantic minidrama. It involves Edwin and Grace who reminisce about the origins of their relationship. Collins' son William meets and flirts with a woman in a fish n' chips shop. The idea of a nostalgic yearn to memories is fine on paper. But the execution isn't so strong and had me wanting a return to the two people that formed an investment within me.

The notion of performing again would have once seemed impossible. His distinctive baritone is back. It returns Edwyn with the restorative power of music and uses it as a conduit through Grace's love. Now that is something. Overall, I was deeply moved by the progress in which Edwyn rose from his illness. The same can be said in every shared moment with his wife. All of the themes are resonant. It is inspirational and hopeful. But the simplicity of its narrative would've helped a bit more. What I'd give to have the minidrama stripped altogether. Let's keep the rambling assessments aside. This was very affecting and the goal was achieved.