Bill W.

Rated 4.0

Bill Wilson, the storied co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, is the subject of this richly detailed documentary. Filmmakers Kevin Hanlon and Dan Carracino have assembled an impressive array of illustrative material documents, photographs, archival footage, home movies, audio tapes, along with some newly filmed recreations for a combination biography of the man and history of the emergence of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s. Both stories are of course intertwined, especially in Wilson’s authorship of the “Big Book” of A. A. Hanlon and Carracino’s portrait of the man is a nicely balanced mixture of respectful praise and clear-eyed observation. Their approach has a plain-spoken directness that matches Wilson’s own manner in public and private, with the result that their film wrestles honorably with a problem central to Wilson’s own iconic leadership in a movement for which anonymity is crucial (by the lights of A.A., Bill Wilson must be known simply as Bill W). Even in the case of scenes touching on pivotal moments of spiritual connection, the understated approach gets something special across. Pageant Theatre. Not rated.