Movie Summary of "When a Man Loves a Woman"

by Tatyana Ivanov

"When a Man Loves a Woman" is a dramatic story of the effects of one woman's alcoholism on her husband and children. Written by Al Franken and Ron Bass, this 1994 film earned Meg Ryan a Screen Actors Guild Award for her portrayal of the unhinged Alice Green and her difficult attempts at recovering from alcohol addiction.

Characters and Cast

Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia star as the married couple Alice and Michael Green, whose seemingly perfect lives are suddenly destroyed by Alice's drinking problem. Although Alice's addiction directly impacts the health and well-being of her family, it is Michael's surprising dependency on her irresponsibility that threatens to tear the family apart once she has recovered. The film also stars Ellen Burstyn as Alice's mother, and Tina Majorino and Mae Whitman as the couple's young daughters.

Under the Influence

The film opens on the seemingly perfect lives of Alice and Michael Green and their two children -- Alice's 9-year-old daughter from a previous marriage and the couple's own 4-year-old daughter. Alice, a high school guidance counselor, occasionally has a beer at lunch and sees no problem with this. Michael, an airline pilot, becomes increasingly busy at his job and frequently is away from home. Alice's drinking problem begins to escalate, as getting drunk becomes her primary concern, often at the expense of her home and family. Michael enables this reckless behavior to control her.

Hitting Bottom

Alice's drinking quickly escalates as Michael's duties as an airline pilot keep him away from home more often. Faced with the realities of being the sole supporter of her two daughters, Alice buckles under the pressure, and home and family life quickly go to shambles in Michael's absence. A series of drunken accidents -- including Alice falling out of a rowboat, leaving her children unattended and seriously injuring herself after falling through the glass door of her shower -- make Alice realize her drinking problem is getting out of control. She leaves to go to rehab and recover from her addiction.


After returning from rehab, Alice discovers her sobriety is causing a new set of problems with her husband. In a family counseling session, Michael reveals he has relied on her addiction to bolster his own role as the controlling perfectionist in the family. Michael and Alice work through their issues in couple's counseling to reconcile their differences and form a cohesive family unit that embraces Alice's sobriety and new-found strength and independence.