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Movie Reviews

Good Will Hunting





Released: 1997

Directed By: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams

Certificate: 15


Reviewed By: Richard O’Toole

In 1997 two young hopefuls put pen to paper and created a masterpiece. Taking professional advice from their friends, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote Good Will Hunting, winning an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe Award also for Best Screenplay.


The narrative is of a young man, Will (Matt Damon), an intellectual genius whose future seems set in stone. By day he is a janitor at a university and by night he socialises with his best friends, Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Cole Hauser). The friends often run into trouble, the most recent leaving Will looking at a stint in prison. The only way to avoid time behind bars is for him to study mathematics with Professor Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård) and to undergo therapy sessions. After cracking several therapists’ patience, Lambeau is left with no choice but to ask his old college room mate, psychologist Sean McGuire (Robin Williams) to give Will sessions. After much determination, Sean is able to break through to Will’s inner problems, revealing secrets about his childhood, life style and girlfriend, Skylar (Minnie Driver).


Affleck and Damon have truly written a timeless classic. Good Will Hunting will leave audiences thinking, not just about the film, but about their own lives, relationships and friendships.  It is very rare a film with a running time of 126 minutes can keep audiences so gripped without the need for big explosions, cutting edge computer-generated images or nudity.  There is a perfect fluidity between the heavy storyline and moments of comedy within the film, which really helps relieve the audience from the serious mental issues Will has to deal with from the scarring he has from his childhood in foster care.


This was also the first major box-office smash for director Gus Van Sant who has since gone on to direct the likes of Paris, Je T’Aime and Milk. His style in Good Will Hunting is soft, using a lot of medium and close-up shots. This helps to keep focus on the acting, which is the pure driving force of the film.


Robin Williams won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and rightly so. His performance was immense, ad-libbing several of his scenes and being so, so believable with his emotion towards his late wife. Ad-libbing become a bit of a trend on set, as Minnie Driver and Matt Damon also joined in, this in turn, made the acting more natural and raw. Damon’s performance apparently helped him land his role in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, need anything else be said?


Despite the fact not all of us have criminal records, there are three key reasons an audience will relate with the film. It explores emotions we have all experienced or will experience within our lifetimes: love, loss and loneliness, and it is this that makes Good Will Hunting such an astonishing watch.


Fan of Matt Damon? MM reviews for ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ and ‘True Grit’

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