‘Good Will Hunting’: Inspirational and Life-Affirming

I remember the day I watched the film, interestingly I can even recollect the time of the day I watched it. That in and of itself is a delectable remnant of the effect this film has on you. Every little aspect of Good Will Hunting is sprinkled with originality and freshness. The emotional journey a man undertakes to completely bare his soul and place trust in a fellow-man is an imagery the film paints and instills in your mind.

Matt Damon portrays the mathematical genius Will. Imbued with a tenable cynicism and having suffered a tumultuous childhood, he epitomizes the ultimate pessimist. For him, everything he does is predetermined to fail, inculcating a tenuous approach to life that propels him to run away from things and people he develops an attachment with. He perceives this behavioral pattern as a defense mechanism — in a way, it is his way of protecting himself from the emotional agony that would be caused when things do go wrong. The mask of isolation he puts on is convincingly defensible, though the fragility peering through the cracks is ominous of a repressed desire of leading a normal happy life. The film offers us these glimpses through his relationship with Skylar (Minnie Driver). His reluctance to confide in her just goes on to show the extent of his pessimism unyielding to the most potent desires of the heart.

Will’s only place of uninhibited existence is with his friends Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Billy (Cole Hauser) and Morgan (Casey Affleck). Will views and values their companionship as it is unconstrained by condescension and pretenses. Chuckie is the pragmatist who looks beyond his mediocrity to realize the unbridled potential of his friend (Will).

His mathematical brilliance fortuitously attracts the attention of Professor Gerald Lambeau when he anonymously solves a problem working in a janitorial role. Professor Lambeau recognizes the potential and the prospect Will personifies. An aggravated act of misdemeanor perpetrated by Will and his friends presents Lambeau with the opportunity to broker a deal that avoids criminal deliberation while bringing Will under his mentorship and undertake psychological therapy. Professor Lambeau’s imposition of his ideology on Will to prioritises success, and maximizes the limits of his extraordinary talent. Justified by his academic prominence, Lambeau’s premise of achieving happiness through success is the practical version of life that we inadvertently adhere to. The fallacy arises when the film makes you question your visceral feelings of fulfillment.

And just when the film seems in need of an uplifting, comes along Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) the eccentric psychiatrist assigned to Will as part of a therapeutic program and Professor Lambeau’s deal. Sean is the integrant that combines the small portraits of impressive narrative into an artwork of cinematic brilliance. The silhouette of misery lingering over his tragic past casts no shadows over his present attitude towards life. He embraces the sadness as part of his life but the underlying inertia conscientiously stops him from moving on.

The relationship between Sean and Will unfolds with some initial stasis. Will with his projection of imperviousness is met with an exacting reply from Sean. The initial sessions are colored with a poignant humor characterized by a silence that echoes an impending sense of a beautiful bond. Over subsequent sessions, the inchoate relationship develops as both unite through their individual experiences with vicissitudes of melancholy. Sean’s persistent yet ‘take it or leave it’ nudges crack through Will’s wall of isolation as he is infused with effervescence to accept life with all its uncertainties, disappointments. In guiding Will, Sean discovers his inaction to traverse existentially beyond the acceptance of his grief. The bond translates into a medium of mutual recovery, healing wounds of past and pushing each of them to live life a little more as each moment grazes by.

The philosophical contradiction of Sean and Gerald, once peers, presents an interesting dichotomy between the meaning of happiness and success. It throws light on whether a man needs success to be happy or is happiness in itself, without success, fulfilling. This predicament further manifests through the reckless actions of Will that illuminate his own doubts of ever achieving satisfaction. As the narrative advances, you realize the whole futility of the notion that there can’t be happiness without success or vice versa. The truth is there can be no happiness if all that we are worried about is happiness. The same is true for success as well. Similarly, worrying about your future isn’t going to improve your present. Therefore, it is always better to lead life in the present moment; because in the end, what matters is the journey, and not the destination.

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