• James Rutherford

'Good Will Hunting': An Acutely Reflective Depiction of An Emotionally Damaged Young Genius


Movie poster for the 1998 film Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting (1998) is an acutely reflective and absorbing human drama starring Matt Damon as the titular Will Hunting, an intellectually gifted young South Bostonian beset by deep-rooted historical trauma. Orphaned from childhood, Will bears the pain of foster care abuses into young adulthood, working menial labor while struggling under an often volatile disposition.


Despite his genius-level IQ, Will works as a custodian at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he furtively solves advanced communal math problems—drawing the attention of Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard). Lambeau yearns to shape Will into a celebrated prodigy yet struggles with his caustic manner, ultimately recruiting psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) to intervene. Will and Sean's therapy sessions quickly become the very heart of this resounding tale of fellowship and self-discovery.


Written by Damon and Ben Affleck (also appearing as Chuckie) and directed by Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, Milk), Good Will Hunting is a profound rendering of trauma and actualization. Damon and Affleck's Academy Award-winning screenplay carefully balances drama, pathos, humor and romance (tip of the hat to Minnie Driver as Will's love interest Skyler) to create a roundly humanistic depiction of personal reclamation. Highest accolades to the later Williams, whose heart-touching portrayal of the empathetic Maguire underlies the entire storyline—helping to shape one of cinema's most stunningly poignant works.

 

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