Why You Have to See "Bill W." -- New Documentary About Alcoholics Anonymous Founder. Read My Review! 

William G. Wilson, the iconic driving force behind Alcoholics Anonymous, is the subject of the new documentary “Bill W.” from directors Kevin Hanlon and Dan Carracino. It’s a fitting homage to a man who went to great lengths to help fellow alcoholics.

“Bill W.” would have been a tawdry and salacious look at Wilson’s life if not for the caring, well-researched work by the filmmakers. Talks of his infidelity, experimentation with LSD, and depression helped shape Wilson as a respectable albeit flawed hero.

Told in a chronological fashion, “Bill W.” covers the life and times of Wilson. In 1999, he was named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 20 Heroes and Icons of the 20th Century for his work as A.A.’s co-founder. What made him start the 12 Step recovery of the program?

Born William Griffith Wilson in 1895 in East Dorset, Vermont, Wilson grew up to be a determined young man, setting his sights on his goals and doing everything to achieve them. As a teenager, he wanted to be the best violinist in the world and took extra steps to reach that goal.

Both Hanlon and Carracino are not practicing AA members but “Bill W.” is sensitive with its subject. The documentary is interspersed with Alcoholics Anonymous members who have succeeded in being sober for years. Each of their stories is used to support Wilson’s own experiences.

The man’s self sacrifice is also evident throughout the documentary. He gave up his career for his passion to help. For the most part, even his marriage to the supportive Lois Burnham was put in the back burner for his greater calling.

“Bill W.” tremendously benefited from the meticulous research conducted by the filmmakers. The extensive use of some never-before-seen archival footage helped shine a light on Wilson’s fruitful life.

Understandably, it took eight years of full-time work to complete “Bill W.” Besides conducting research in dozens of archives and private collections, Hanlon and Carracino also interviewed A.A. members and historians in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

“Bill W.” is interesting enough that you will not find yourself bored. The film moves at a brisk pace in order to cover Bill Wilson’s expansive life. Some of the “supporting actors” in his quest to help alcoholics were dropped for the sake of moving the story forward. I wished the filmmakers gave us proper endings for each of the real-life characters introduced for clarity reasons.

The tone of “Bill W.” hews closer to a congratulatory manner. Most of the interviewees have nothing but praises for Wilson but can you blame them? Here was a man who singlehandedly gave alcoholics hope while fighting his own demons.

In 1989, James Woods won an Emmy for his portrayal of Bill Wilson in the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie “My Name is Bill W.” But that well-praised movie was not able to create a fully realized portrait of Wilson better than what “Bill W.” has achieved. This documentary is an eye-opening experience about Bill Wilson and his legacy.


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