Classic Film: Good Will Hunting

The classic film, “Good Will Hunting” directed by Gus Van Sant in 1997 portrays the theme of abandonment and trust using characterization and point of view.

I chose this film because it appealed to my curiosity. The film “Good Will Hunting” remains relevant today due to the amount of trust that is gained throughout the movie as well as the amount of change that occurred within the main character, Will Hunting. It’s very appealing to see the characters make positive changes that will benefit them in the long run especially when the change is noted throughout the film.

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In this film you will realize, Will Hunting, is extremely good at math and chemistry that can one day take him out of his neighborhood and to great places, but he just doesn’t realize his potential and isn’t willing to leave his childhood memories, his job, or his best friend. To make things more complex, several strangers enter his life which includes a math professor who discovers, and envies, Will’s gifts, an compassionate psychiatrist who connects with Will’s origins, and a gifted pre-med student who shows him the possibility of love for the first time in his life.

The film, “Good Will Hunting” portrays Will Hunting, the main character as an aggressive, juvenile foster kid who moves around from multiple foster homes due to his aggressive behavior. “Exposure to trauma as well as stressful life events and the emotional and behavioral consequences of this exposure is highly prevalent among youths involved in the juvenile justice system”.

Will Hunting worked as a janitor for a college named M.I.T. Will Hunting was a young juvenile who felt abandoned due to always being alone and being moved around from different foster homes. He never felt safe enough to trust anyone. Not only was Will Hunting a young juvenile, he also was a genius. If he read it, he could remember it. He was amazing in every subject.

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Another important character was portrayed by Professor Lambeau. Professor Lambeau wrote an advanced mathematical theory on the board and he set a challenge for the students in his class to solve this very complex theory. However, the school janitor Will Hunting solved the theory. The Professor searched for the person who solved this theory that they have been working to solve for about two years now. The Professor found out that Will Hunting was in fact a true genius and he set off to help him regardless of what that took.

“Psychologists have started playing key roles in the criminal justice by providing treatment (Janopaul-Naylor, 2019).”

The Professor made Will go to counseling even though he was let go from several counseling sessions due to the inability it connect, apart from one therapist. “When youth become responsive to their counselor’s non-judgmental and supportive approach, they may be able to understand the youth’s life barriers and their interventions can then be individualized” (Shea, 2019).

The therapist and Will Hunting were very similar people. The therapist and Will bonded over their issues of feeling abandoned. The therapist felt abandoned by his wife when she died, he felt all alone and never truly let anyone in his life after she died. He didn’t trust people. Just like Will who also never let anyone in or trust anyone because he also felt abandoned and alone.

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In this film, the acting, cinematography, and setting play a central part in conveying how Will might be caught up in his own hubris, and how with the help with the people around him, he can see things from other people’s perspectives instead of just assuming he knows everything.

The scene in question opens up with Will making light of the setting where Sean decided to meet, cracking jokes while having that signature smirk on his face; the smirk only a guy who thought he was the smartest guy in the room would have. Sean then tells Will on how hurt he was due to what Will said about his painting, and how he stayed up half the night thinking about it. It then occurred to him Will is just some kid who does not have a clue what he is talking about. He goes on talking about all these experiences he has had, that Will just could not know about by reading about in some book. Above all that, Sean recognizes that he cannot learn about Will unless Will opens up to him, and leaves the offer on the table.

The acting performances by Robin Williams and Matt Damon were crucial in selling this scene; displaying the range of emotions the characters went through. In the beginning of the scene, Will is acting very pompously, diminishing the very fact that they are meeting on some park bench. The way Matt Damon just cracks on Robin Williams with that smirk of his, really sells that Will just thinks he this big hot shot, that this is a little beneath him. I thought this was the perfect way to start said scene, because in order to make the impact of something falling much greater, you have to build it up first. Will’s cockiness in this scene basically gives Robin Williams the alley-oop to tear into him, really giving him a sense of perspective. During the beginning of Robin Williams’ monologue, Matt Damon would butt in with snide half-remarks, further showing how the character Will does not really care about what Sean is saying up to this point. While Matt Damon provides a good supporting performance in this scene, it is Robin Williams’ who steals the show, and he moves both the audience and Will. With both Williams’ cold, blue eyes matched with his warm yet broken demeanor, you know he has been through some stuff; stuff that Will could not even imagine even though he seems to know it all. Those half-smiles that he gives when reminiscing mixed with the harsh reality that he unveils shortly after, really shows you that while Will is very intelligent, he is not wise like Sean is. One is rich in intelligence, and the other is rich in experience. After the speech, Will’s attitude was changed dramatically. You can tell he had a change of heart, which led him to not being able to speak towards the end. You could feel how choked up he was, with his eyes moving rapidly around, thinking of a quick response, which he knew he didn’t have, and Damon sold this like a perfectionist. Will, the guy who always had an answer for everything, had to suffer defeat when faced with someone who could easily and surely put him in his place.

The way this shot was framed, and which particular actor to focus on, grabbed the audience attention and moved them just a bit closer to the edge of their seat. It initiated a deeper connection between the actor and the viewer. Framing is an important part of the film making process; it sets the mood, and brings attention to subtleties within an actor’s performance. For the majority of the film, the camera focused on Robin Williams’ character Sean. Everything in the background was blurred out and attentive him. This gave Robin Williams a pedestal for his performance, something you would see in a clip reel of his greatest hits. It let you focus on the actor’s emotions, and felt as if he was talking to the audience itself. Another interesting way this scene was filmed was how it slowly panned around Robin Williams, as if we were in his orbit. To my understanding, this let the audience, and Will, know that the world does not only revolve around him; other people have their own journeys, experiences, and are not two dimensional. The only time where Will is in focus, was near the end of Sean’s speech, where the point had already hit home, a little too close to home for Will; thus changing his outlook on life in general.

The central message that the classic film, “Good Will Hunting” tried to convey would be, that someone’s career and education level does not determine the level of intelligence that one has. Will Hunting proved this to be correct throughout the movie. The message of this film was enhanced by the expert use of characterization and point of view. The way that the director designed the characters really played a part in a message that the director was to get across. The janitor that worked at M.I.T, no one would have thought that he would have been a genius. The director designed the main character the way that he did, so he can show that your career and education level does not show a person’s true intelligence level.