Good Will Hunting (1997) [Review]

Good Will Hunting (directed by Gus Van Sant) is a refreshing and perplexing film about a young math prodigy who is struggling with a troublesome past and creating a better life for himself. While at first, 21 year old Will Hunting (played graciously by Matt Damon), seems content with essentially wasting his life away in the downtown suburbs of Boston, the further the film goes, the more it become apparent that he wants more from life than the drinking and fighting, the janitor work and loneliness that his life had become.

It is difficult to find fault in this film, and I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner. Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, the screenplay has layers and layers of complex ideas and excellently written dialogue. The film eased its way from one moment to the next without any jarring interruptions to the story and the progression of characters was realistic and plausible. The dynamics between the characters and their own selfish manners and obscurities shines through Damon and Affleck’s carefully constructed characters –  ensuring that each of their characters were equally diverse and that their similarities only showed through development of relationships and actions.

The film also has a very ‘show don’t tell’ aspect to it. Never are we given the obvious by someone saying exactly what is going on. In the beginning of the film, we know that Will Hunting has had a tough life, but it isn’t until a blow up fight with Skylar (Minnie Driver) that it is revealed why he acts and looks the way he does. The same goes for Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), the fate of his wife, his connections with Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), and his life experiences are only revealed through eventual development of relationship between himself and Will.

Damon’s character, the main character of the film, was everything that the film needed. In what begins as a troubled 21 year old who drinks with his friends often and gets into brawls, opens up and shows empathy towards other people. Right from the beginning we can see that Damon had an indescribable talent and intellect that could not be understood. His upbringing made it hard for him to feel a connection to anyone so as soon as Will started to see some stability come into his life, it was in his character to push it away and build his walls back up. A perfect example comes from his relationship with Skylar. Undoubtedly in love, Will becomes defensive when his individuality and norm is challenged, causing him to push Skylar away when she is most vulnerable. Of course though, Will realises that what he has done has not made him happy, yet in his nature he feels it necessary to do so. I feel his character is extremely relatable to many young people and it heeds the realistic issues that young adults face quite often.

Williams’ played Sean, the court order psychiatrist that had become Will’s saving grace. Williams’ performance was stand out; the connection to his character was so incredible and had the believability and empathy that comes with a role so diverse. William’s emotional strength throughout the film and his belief in soulmates is a refreshing take on modern romance films. Without the film holding romantic focus, his character brings enough romance and hope for the future to gain the attention of a wide audience. His connection with Will is unquestionably the most vital relationship in the whole film and we see the vulnerability of the two characters when they become most connection when Sean insists that Will’s troubled upbringing was not his fault.

I’ll also touch on Skylar, Will’s love interest, and Chuckie, Will’s best friend. On the one hand, you have Skylar who is inherently wealthy and attends a highly regarded college, quite unlike Will. There relationship sparks when Will impresses Skylar in a bar with his high level of intellect and despite their differences, they fall in love. The two go through their relationship in blissful ignorance; Will not telling Skylar his past and Skylar in full belief that Will would follow her on her ventures and make more of his life, without knowing the underlying emotional issues and damaged psyche that Will withholds.

On the other hand, Will’s best friend has always been there for Will and supported his decisions. However, when push comes to shove, Chuckie believes that Will has far too much potential to live out his life in Boston, and that it’d be ridiculous for Will to waste his life away in a town that holds nothing for him. He is a very generous and caring friend, however he too does not understand the complexities of Will. A pivotal moment in their relationship is when they’re both working on a construction site and Chuckie reveals his hope for Will to leave in such an abrupt way that he would be glad to go to Will’s house to find that he has disappeared without letting him know.

I believe that this film is one of the greatest films to depict heartbreak and the processes of soul searching. This is a film that engages the audience and allows them to get to know the characters as they are getting to know each other. There are minimal interruptions in the film and the story flows in such a comfortable and inspiring pace. I think that Affleck and Damon, along with director Gus Van Sant, did an outstanding job on this film.

Do I think you should watch it? Yes. A thousand times yes. The more I think about this film the more it amazes me. If you have seen it, tell me your thoughts!!


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