Submerged into cold black water, staring toward and opening in the ice getting drastically further away and slipping off into the intangible. Directors James Hall and Edward Lovelace open their spectacular documentary The Possibilities are Endless with attempting to convey what it is like to be inside the mind of someone that has suffered a stroke.
When famed Scottish musician Edwyn Collins suffered a stroke it looked like he may never recover. Despite the odds, his partner Grace Maxwell helps him recover and the documentary charts Edwyn’s path of self re-discovery.
Using sublime images and disorientating soundscape you begin start the journey from nothingness to life. Hearing Grace talk about her time at his bedside, unsure whether he'd ever recover will strangle your heart. She sat and whispered stories of their favourite getaway town, Helmsdale, on the Scottish coast. As her voice over recounts the places that they've both adored, Hall and Lovelace create a frenetic collage of every picturesque vista of the town. The wind bending tall grass on rolling downs, the reflective flash of sun on water, or gnarled dark rocky outcroppings being massaged by the ocean - Helmsdale seems heavenly. Interspersed through this is Edwyn's own attempts to describe the experience. His speech as a result of the stroke is stilted, lurching through static of his mind to find the right description. At every stuttered word you'll find yourself holding back tears.
However, the second act of the film shows how Edwyn's journey of reclaiming himself; which was largely thanks to Grace prodding and coaxing the man she loves out of this remaining shell. Playing demos from his last record, pushing him to walk without the assistance of his cane and using sketching (with requests to draw new images all the time) to repave the freeways of creativity that made him one of the most famous musicians in Scotland. Hall and Lovelace chart his transition beautifully using the evolution of his art, his increasing recollection of old songs, all the way to being able to compose and perform music again. The title, 'The Possibilities are Endless,' was one of the only phrases that Edwyn could mutter as he awakened from his coma, that and 'Grace Maxwell.' Hall and Lovelace's spectacular documentary gives the audience the slightest insight into how frightening a stroke can be and conversely how powerfully sense memory can rescue parts of who you are from the recesses of your mind.
[rating=4] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: James Hall Edward Lovelace Starring Edwyn Collins, William Collins, Grace Maxwell, Yasmin Paige
Edwyn Collins ... Himself William Collins ... Himself Grace Maxwell ... Herself Yasmin Paige ... Herself