When a Man Loves a Woman (film)

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

When a Man Loves a Woman
When a man loves a woman.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLuis Mandoki
Produced byJon Avnet
Jordan Kerner
Written byRonald Bass
Al Franken
Music byZbigniew Preisner
CinematographyLajos Koltai
Touchstone Pictures
Avnet/Kerner Productions
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • April 29, 1994 (1994-04-29)
Running time
126 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$50.0 million

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


Alice Green (Meg Ryan) is a school counselor who has a serious drinking problem and is married to Michael (Andy García), an airline pilot. Though she's lighthearted and loving, Alice is often reckless and, when drunk, even neglects her children: nine-year-old Jess (Tina Majorino) from a previous marriage, and four-year-old 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 Jess concerned for her 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 Alice has died, Jess contacts Michael who immediately flies home to be by Alice'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 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 Alice'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 outside friendships and lack of dependence. 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. She 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.



Tom Hanks was considered for Garcia's role and Michelle Pfeiffer and Debra Winger were considered for Ryan's role.[1]


The film debuted at No. 2 behind The Crow.[2] It currently holds a 71% fresh rating among critics at Rotten Tomatoes from 21 reviews. The site's consensus states: "When a Man Loves a Woman delves into the complex dynamics of a marriage shadowed by addiction, aided by strong performances from Andy Garcia and Meg Ryan."[3] However it 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.[4][5]

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 it where the script would strike a raw nerve with certain people because of how it judges alcoholics and deals with issues related to alcoholism.[5] 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".[4] Roger Ebert, himself a recovering alcoholic, gave it four out of four stars, 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 spending more time on its description of the role of the family enablers in development of alcoholism.[6]


  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. ^ Mell, Eila (2013). Casting Might-Have-Beens: A Film by Film Directory of Actors Considered for Roles Given to Others. McFarland. ISBN 9781476609768.page 254
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "When a Man Loves a Woman". Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  4. ^ a b New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. May 9, 1994. p. 66. ISSN 0028-7369.
  5. ^ a b Berardinelli, James (January 1, 2005). Reel Views 2: The Ultimate Guide to the Best 1,000 Modern Movies on DVD and Video. Justin, Charles & Co. p. 383. ISBN 978-1-932112-40-5.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "When a Man Loves a Woman". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved September 4, 2015.

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