Good Will Hunting (1997) – Film Review

Matt Damon and Robin Williams star in Good Will Hunting...

Written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and directed by Gus Van Sant, Good Will Hunting is one of the highest rated films of recent years. With Oscar-winning performances and a star-studded cast, the film tells the story of staggeringly intelligent Will Hunting (Damon) who shies away from embracing his talents after an abusive fostering experience, seeking solace and abandonment in menial jobs.

After being discovered by a professor (Stellan Skarsgard) for the genius that he is, he begins taking classes with the professor whilst being put into a form of counselling with Robin William’s Sean Maguire after being involved in a fight and having failed, for the first time, to escape punishment. In their sessions the two of them slowly come to terms with the problems that have held Hunting back whilst Maguire is forced to evaluate his own life from his experiences with Hunting. Supporting performances are provided by the likes of Affleck (who here plays Damon’s friend) and Minnie driver who provides the film its love interest.

One of Damon’s earlier films, Good Will Hunting showcases both his acting and writing abilities. While looking at the social expectations placed on the gifted, the film also subtly explores the intricacies of a fledgling relationship (between Damon and Driver) and the brotherly bonds between male friends.

Despite rave reviews, the characters can, at times, be difficult to empathise with due to some aspects of the story being somewhat unbelievable. How, for example, can gifts such as those possessed by Damon’s character not have been been discovered until he was in his twenties? Driver’s blatant British patriotism can, at times, be fairly intrusive too. When such minor flaws are overlooked, however, the audience is left with a film that reaches toward asking questions about humanity whilst intertwining such attempts with delicate scenes of emotion and friendship.

The film’s outcome is joyfully unpredictable; its sentiments likeable and well filmed. The collaboration between Damon and Affleck was to be reignited in Kevin Smith’s Dogma whilst they both went on to find staggering fame. Williams’ hangs up his goof-ball shoes in this role and subsequently provides the film with its richest character. Hunting and Maguire both confront their harrowing pasts and learn to embrace life again after their sessions together and this forms what is perhaps the films strongest adage. The role saw Williams collect an Oscar.

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