When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story

Produced By:  Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            When people think of Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, they usually think of sappy productions with so much fluff.  But lately, Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions has been turning out films with great substances - films that are inspiring in more ways than one.  When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story is yet another in the long list of true and inspiring stories presented by Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions.  A companion to My Name Is Bill W., When Love Is Not Enough is the story of the courageous wife of the co-creator of Alcoholics Anonymous.

            When Lois and Bill Wilson married, it was supposed to be the start of a new life filled with hope and happiness.  Theirs was a whirlwind romance culminating in marriage before Bill was sent off to war.  While Bill was away, Lois worked as a nurse in the local hospital.  Upon returning from war, Bill seemed different, but he had just been fighting for his country overseas, so Lois ignored it.  When he landed a job with her best friend's husband's marketing firm on Wall Street, things seemed to be heading toward the right direction.

            In fact, Bill was offered an important executive job before long and the Wilson family became prosperous and well-respected in the community.  But the more prosperous they became, the more Bill drank.  What had first been social drinking had become something he had to do during working hours just to survive the day.  Ultimately, it drove the Wilsons to the brink of disaster with Lois struggling to make ends meet after Bill lost his job and almost his life to alcohol. 

            Having hit rock bottom, Bill Wilson asked for God's help to fight this illness that plagued him.  It was then that Bill Wilson was finally able to accept his alcoholism as a fact and to seek out spiritual guidance in fighting his disease.  Together with another recovering alcoholic, Bill realized that speaking to other alcoholics had some sort of healing factor and began organizing meetings in which alcoholics could talk about their problems in an anonymous setting.  Alcoholics Anonymous was born.

            But Lois Wilson was unfulfilled.  She was happy that her husband had finally found a way to fight his alcoholism, but at the same time she was bitter that he couldn't overcome it solely out of love for her.  She blamed herself for failing her husband and at the same time was angry with him.  Plagued by these conflicting emotions, Lois Wilson felt the need to talk about them with others who might understand.  She began inviting the wives of the alcoholics attending Bill's meeting to attend a meeting of their own.  The meetings eventually became a support group for the spouses of recovering alcoholics known as Al-Anon.

            Based on a book by William Borchert, When Love Is Not Enough shows us that alcoholism is a disease that not only affects the life of the alcoholic, but those around them, including those who love them the most.  In this film, we learn of one woman's strength in dedication to her husband, her willingness to stand by him as he battled, often unsuccessfully with his disease.  It depicts the reality of the issues of alcoholism and how it affects the family.  Lois Wilson was strong enough and intelligent enough to realize that if her husband needed a support group to help him on his road to recovery, then so did she and others like her who had learned to live with the disease and its effects on their lives.  Without Lois' strength, determination and dedication, there would be no Al-Anon today.  In fact, there may very well have never been an Alcoholics Anonymous without her love and support.  Lois Wilson is definitely an inspiring woman.

            I must admit, I am not a huge Wynona Ryder fan.  I was most excited at seeing Barry Pepper in his role of Bill Wilson.  Barry Pepper is a highly underrated actor who has pulled off some amazing performances in films like Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, 61* and more.  Once again, Barry Pepper delivers as the tortured soul who finally comes to grips with his disease and finds a way to help others as well.  That being said, I have to say that Wynona Ryder did an excellent job portraying Lois Wilson.  I believe Ryder has grown in her acting abilities and this film is actually proof of her maturity as an actress.  Watching the film, you forgot you were watching Wynona Ryder and actually believed you were seeing Lois Wilson through all of her pain and suffering as the wife of an alcoholic and her epiphany which helped create Al-anon.

            A movie about the creators of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon is inspiring in itself, but the fact that the creators of this film focused on the love story between these characters was the icing on the cake.  A love so strong as to see these two people through some of the darkest days of their lives and come out shining strong in the end is amazing.  To discover that this is a true story and that this sort of love, something the most romantic of us find hard to believe in, really exists is truly inspiring.

            Once again, the Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions delivers with this inspiring tale of courage, faith and determination mixed with an amazing love story.  When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story is at once a heart-wrenching and inspiring tale that lives up to the Hallmark Hall of Fame name.


To read more about Hallmark Hall of Fame movies, check out these links:

Loving Leah

Pictures of Hollis Woods

The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

Front of the Class

A Dog Named Christmas

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