Euan Lawson (@euan_lawson) is the Deputy Editor, BJGP.
In 2005, Edywn Collins had a brain haemorrhage. There’s no gentle intro to this film; it is immersive as we are plunged into a fragmentary sequence of memories, images and sounds. There’s footage of Helmsdale, the hills and the beaches where Edwyn and his family spend their time, and childhood memories collide with adulthood. Edwyn offers broken commentary, his voice hesistant, frequently stuck and unintelligible. Grace, his wife, speaks to Edwyn, and we can feel her at the bedside comforting him. It’s claustrophobic, frightening and frustrating. It’s also mesmerising and quietly horrific as we eavesdrop on an inner life where your brain is unanchored, adrift.
How do you reconstruct your life after a brain injury that leaves you with a hemiplegia and practically aphasic? His only words: Yes. No. Grace Maxwell. The possibilities are endless. He has to learn to read again. Edwyn draws the same rough portrait of a man again. And again. He struggles to remember how many days there are in a year. It took me a while to place Edwyn and it wasn’t until they showed a clip of his biggest chart hit, A Girl Like You, that I had him. A handsome, tall, prodigiously talented musician with a self-assured melodious Scottish accent. Grace and Edwyn just kept going, tiny amounts upwards and onwards. As Grace says, sometimes you just have to “suck it up”. The words of his songs start to come back to him and he sings again.
There is often a whiff of the condescending when relating life-affirming stories of the apparently afflicted. There’s no room in this story for any plastic admiration; nothing in this film plays on victimhood. It’s just Edwyn’s and Grace’s story with no smear of self-pity to blur the vision. This is not a motivational movie with the life story burnished so we may weep at the indomitable human spirit. It’s not making promises that by watching you will be a better person. Yet there is a quiet satisfaction here and an insight into brain injury that embraces the medium of cinema.
Spoiler: You will be disappointed if you are hanging out for a magical moment of recovery with all his memories and skills flooding back in an exultant moment of slow-mo triumph. Ultimately, we come to Edwyn as he his now: ribbing his wife; laughing with his son. He’s not where he was before 2005, perhaps not where he might have expected to be: but then who is? Edwyn is laconic: Possibly before my stroke I was a bit too focussed. He goes on in his staccato style: The next stage of my career. No, no, I was nice. Don’t get me wrong. But arrogant in a way. I’m over that phase.
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Visit the website: www.thepossibilities.co.uk. The Possibilities are Endless is showing in selected cinemas in February and March, or you can buy and download it via the website in hard copy or digitally via the iTunes Store. Twitter: @EdwynFilm