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When a Man Loves a Woman (film)

When a Man Loves a Woman
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Luis Mandoki
Produced by Jon Avnet
Written by Ronald Bass,
Al Franken
Starring Andy García
Meg Ryan
Lauren Tom
Tina Majorino
Mae Whitman
Ellen Burstyn
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography Lajos Koltai
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
April 29, 1994 (limited)
May 13, 1994 (USA)
Running time
126 min.
Language English
Box office $50,021,959

When a Man Loves a Woman is a 1994 American romantic drama film written by Al Franken and Ronald Bass, starring Andy García, Meg Ryan, Tina Majorino, Mae Whitman, Ellen Burstyn, Lauren Tom and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

For her performance as an alcoholic mother, Ryan received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role. The movie's title is taken from the song of the same name by Percy Sledge.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Release and reception 3
  • Soundtrack 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The movie chronicles one woman's (Meg Ryan) alcoholism and her husband's (Andy Garcia) efforts to help her.

Meg Ryan plays Alice Green, a school counselor who has a serious drinking problem and is married to Michael (Andy Garcia), an airline pilot. Though she's lighthearted and loving, Alice is often reckless and, when drunk, even neglects her children, nine-year-old daughter Jess (Tina Majorino) from a previous marriage, and four-year-old daughter Casey (Mae Whitman), whose father is Michael.

One afternoon, Alice enters their home in a drunken incoherent state. She dismisses the reluctant caretaker, who leaves her alone with her children. Still drinking, Alice is confronted by her eldest daughter concerned for her mother's welfare. In return, she violently slaps Jess, who runs to her room crying. Alice enters the shower. Unable to control her balance and calling for Jess, she falls to the side and smashes through the shower door onto the bathroom floor. Fearing her mother has died, Jess contacts Michael who immediately flies home to be by his wife's side.

After the incident and while in the hospital, Michael and Alice confront the truth about Alice's drinking. They jointly decide she must seek professional help for her alcoholism. Upon release from the hospital, a timid Alice enters a rehabilitation clinic.

Michael finds himself now the main caretaker of their home and two children, a role he struggles to maintain along with his career as an airline pilot. Meanwhile, at the clinic, Alice is flourishing; her recovery is painful but stabilizing and she is well liked and respected by both staff and fellow clinic tenants alike. During a family visit day at the clinic, Alice immediately begins to rebuild her shattered bond with the children leaving Michael alone to wander the grounds uncomfortable and out of place in his wife's new lifestyle.

Alice returns home sober yet guarded. She is vocal, strong and changed. Michael is having trouble adjusting to Alice's balance. He has become used to being the stable and controlled one in their relationship and is jealous of Alice's lack of dependence and outside friendships. Coming to terms with their estrangement, a reluctant Michael (believing therapy is for the weak) and a willing Alice see a marriage counselor who quickly establishes Michael's "co-dependency" on Alice's role as an alcoholic.

Unable to find a medium and with tempers flared, Michael moves out and Alice becomes the main caretaker of their home and children. Alice is once again seen flourishing in her new role while Michael is unable to find control and seeks out a support group for spouses of alcoholics. Initially shy, Michael becomes a more vocal member of the group and shares his sorrow over his lack of understanding for the gravity his wife's sobriety would have on him, his children and his marriage.

Alice and Michael singularly return to the hospital to celebrate the birth of their caretaker's baby. They spend time together and as they depart Alice asks Michael if he would attend her 180 day sober speech where she will acknowledge her failings and accomplishments. She also tells him that she has been thinking about asking him to come home with her. Michael tells Alice he has been offered a job in Denver. For the first time since they both agreed Alice should enter rehab, they both agree Michael should take the position.

The penultimate scene is Alice as she stands on a stage and tells her sobriety story; the toll it took on her, her children and her marriage. She is funny, confident, sad but optimistic. Her audience is moved to tears. Her speech ends and she is surrounded by well wishers. Out of the crowd appears Michael. At ease with himself and Alice, he explains what he missed along the way..."to listen, to really listen."

They share an intense, longing, passionate kiss as the credits roll.


Release and reception

The movie debuted at No.2 behind The Crow.[1] When a Man Loves a Woman currently holds a 70% fresh rating among critics at Rotten Tomatoes, although the film has a mixed reception and is seen unfavorably by many because of its length and the way it deals with alcoholism and stress in the family.[2][3] James Berardinelli stated that the "ending is too facile", and that the film took "longer than necessary to arrive at its resolution", adding that there are moments in the film where the script would strike a raw nerve with certain people because of how it judges alcoholics and deals with issues related to alcoholism.[3] However, he said that the "film's poignancy is its strength, even if occasional didactic tendencies are its weakness". David Denby of New York Magazine called it an "earnest and highly prolonged counseling disappointment", a "pushy therapeutic exercise" which, although intelligent, features "endless talk, a stunted mise en scène, and a moral atmosphere of dogged and literal-minded persistence" which "overvalues its own sobriety".[2] Roger Ebert, himself a recovering alcoholic, wrote a very profound review of the movie praising its artistic qualities just in passing (“I couldn't find a false note in Ryan's performance - and only one in Garcia's …”) but more acknowledging its perfect description of the role of the family enablers in development of alcoholism.[4]


  1. When a Man Loves a Woman
  2. Crazy Love
  3. El Gusto
  4. Main Title
  5. Garbage Compulsion
  6. Homecoming
  7. I Hit Her Hard
  8. Dressing Casey
  9. Gary
  10. Michael Decides
  11. Alice & Michael
  12. Running From Mercy by Rickie Lee Jones
  13. I'm a Good Man by Robert Cray
  14. Everybody Hurts by R.E.M.
  15. Stewart's Coat by Rickie Lee Jones


  1. ^ Fox, David J. (May 16, 1994). "The Crow' Takes Off at Box Office Movies: The opening is the biggest ever for Miramax. In second place is `When a Man Loves a Woman,' with `Crooklyn' third.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. 9 May 1994. p. 66.  
  3. ^ a b Berardinelli, James (1 January 2005). Reel Views 2: The Ultimate Guide to the Best 1,000 Modern Movies on DVD and Video. Justin, Charles & Co. p. 383.  
  4. ^ Ebert, Roger. "When a Man Loves a Woman". Retrieved 4 September 2015. 

External links

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