The most brilliant mind at America’s top university isn’t a student, he’s the kid who cleans the floors. Twenty-year-old Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a headstrong, working-class genius who is failing the lessons of life. After one too many run-ins with the law, Will’s last chance is a psychology professor named Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), who might be the only man who can reach him. Finally forced to deal with his past, Will discovers that the only one holding him back is himself.
I will never forget the first time I watched Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. As most of you probably know, movies mean the world to me. If I’m not talking about movies, I’m more than likely watching movies. I’m always on the search for films I’ve never seen before, and every single weekend, my mother and I enjoy watching movies together. Four years ago, we were both sitting down on our living room course, scrolling through the Netflix menu looking for something good to watch. We scrolled for a long while, mostly because the options that we were presented with were movies that we have both already seen or movies that we simply just didn’t care to watch that night.
But eventually, my mom stumbled upon a movie titled Good Will Hunting. She told me that she had already seen it a long time ago, but said it was one of her favorite movies. She said she had a feeling that I would really enjoy it as well, and so it was settled. That was our movie choice for the night. We put it on and throughout the entire duration of the film, I was totally gripped. I truly never wanted the film to end, and by the time it did, I felt like I had just gone on a journey with our lead character.
Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite movies of all-time. Not only that, but I firmly believe that it is one of the most well-written, acted, and directed films ever made. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who also star in the film as Will Hunting and Chuckie Sullivan respectively, penned the absolutely wonderful script for the film, which is chalked full of heart, trauma, and a slice of hope for the future.
Throughout the film, we follow the titular Will Hunting, who is a genius at mathematics. He works as a janitor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but while in the hallways, he notices a blackboard with an extremely complicated, unsolved math equation on it. Absolutely nobody in the school can solve it and it sits there for an incredibly long time until Will goes up to it one day and solves it in a matter of seconds. He rapidly flees the area before anybody notices that it was him that did it because he is tired of always being told he is greatly gifted and smart.
But that’s the thing – he is literally a genius. He is essentially smarter than anybody in the entire school and he isn’t even a teacher. He’s just the janitor. However, it doesn’t take long for the school administration to find out that it is indeed Will Hunting, the seemingly ordinary janitor, that solved the equation.
Nearly every day, Will and his best friends go out drinking at bars, get into trouble and try to pick up girls in the process. They don’t really have a lot to do during the days except to get drunk and waste the day away. Chuckie says he is perfectly fine with finding a job and settling down in South Boston for the rest of his life but urges Will to move and do something with his life. He knows his friend is talented and smart and has so many opportunities to become something great, and gets frustrated that Will never takes them.
“You know what the best part of my day is? It’s for about ten seconds from when I pull up to the curb to when I get to your door. Because I think maybe I’ll get up there and I’ll knock on the door and you won’t be there. No goodbye, no see you later, no nothing,” Chuckie tells to Will in one of the film’s most emotionally powerful scenes. Will knows he is smart and can be somebody great, but he often tries to suppress this. Growing up, Will was abused by his father and still suffers from the memories and trauma he had to go through during his adolescence.
To me, Good Will Hunting is about the realization of one’s greatness and finally learning to embrace it and to take the right steps in order to fulfill your destiny. On the surface, the film looks like any ordinary drama, but it’s so much more than that. Words truly cannot express how meaningful this movie is to me. Even though I can’t say that I relate to some of these characters, the film still speaks to me on such a deep level. I’ve seen the movie several times since my initial viewing four years ago, and every single time I watch it I cry like it’s the first time I am experiencing this story. The writing on display is so beautiful and so moving. It has some comedy in there as well, and it’s all excellent mind you, but it never takes away from the deeply personal story of a young, gifted man who tries to finally accept who he is and take the steps that are necessary to become truly great.
Good Will Hunting is a delightfully moving and emotionally gripping story of learning to embrace one’s greatness and taking the necessary steps toward a great future.
Overall Grade: A+
MPAA Rating: R for strong language, including some sex-related dialogue
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Distributed by: Miramax Films
Release Date: December 5, 1997
Running Time: 126 minutes