One of the main reasons I think I hadn't seen it was because I got slightly confused about exactly what film it was. I thought it was that one where the guy is autistic* or something but is really good at maths, but it turns out I was thinking of (we think) A Beautiful Mind? But anyway- the point is that I was not at all prepared for what I was going to get out of Good Will Hunting, and that's a beautiful thing in itself.
Good Will Hunting is the story of (Good) Will Hunting (Matt Damon) and his generally fucked up life. An actual genius (as in, a genius without even having to try), Will is working as a janitor at MIT when we first meet him, and he solves a mathematical problem in about 5 minutes that took Papa Skarsgard FOUR YEARS to figure out (Papa Skarsgard being a maths professor but not an actual genius). When Will's talent is discovered, rather than running towards the opportunities this creates for him, he shies away from having to do anything at all meaningful with his life. Enter Robin Williams, therapist extraordinaire, Papa Skarsgard's old roommate, and all round good guy. Does he fix Will? You're obviously going to have to watch it to find out.
What I want to talk about, really, are a few key scenes from the movie that really really touched me in a number of different ways. I honestly feel like I learnt a lot about myself watching this film, and that doesn't happen too often, especially when I'm not expecting it. It disarmed me, and kind of made me cry a bit, because, well, you'll see. Let's discuss (mild spoilers here, I guess? But not massively bad):
- There's this scene where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are talking about Will's future, and Will's all like 'well, I could do this job or this job, but fuck it, I want to stay here with you guys.' And it's heartbreaking because Ben Affleck and all his other friends are the only family he's ever known, and are the most important part of the only life he's ever known, and of course he wants to stay with them. What happened next, though, surprised me more than anything. Ben Affleck says to him, that if he stays there, if at 50, he's still working in construction and isn't doing anything with his life, or his brain, then he'll kill him. I was so massively expecting him to just be like 'yeah dude, that's cool, you just stay here with us' that it was alarming that he actually had his friend's best interests at heart rather than his own selfish ones. This was actually probably my favourite scene in the movie because wow. Just, wow.
- There's another part where Matt Damon and Robin Williams are discussing Matt's (Will's... Whatever)** future job prospects, and Will says he doesn't want to work for the government because what if he cracks a code or something and people get killed and he inadvertently starts a war and it all just goes horribly wrong and GAH? And Robin Williams tells him that he'll never get anything done "in a world where you're afraid to take the first step because all you're seeing are the negative things that might happen ten miles down the road." And SHIT. That set off all kinds of synapses in my brain because of course that's something I do. Of course it is. Not that all these high risk places are begging me to come and work for them, but I think there are definitely things I've avoided doing because something might go wrong in the long run. And, you know, I should probably do something about that.***
- Here's maybe the most important thing Good Will Hunting has taught me. It's not that, damn, I really love a Bawston accent (although I do) or that I really want an opportunity in life to use 'You like apples? Well, [thing I have done that the other person wants], how do you like them apples?' (but that's true too). No, I think it's that success isn't defined by what other people think it is, but merely by you believing that you have lived, or are living, well. It might be more important to you to find love than to be at the top of your chosen field, or the opposite might be true, but either way, figuring out what's important to you and then doing that thing is sort of what we should all be doing. Or, at least I think that's so.
So, yeah. Life lessons aplenty, and really just a very very good film even if you don't need a good stern talking to via film. You've probably seen it already since it's about a million years old (or... 16?) but I think that for me, it's always going to be one of those things I've seen in the right place at the right time. And I'm really glad I did.
*Excuse me, IMDb tells me that Russell Crowe's character in A Beautiful Mind was actually schizophrenic. So there we go.
**I realise I am doing this all wrong, but I really can't be bothered to look up all the character names, and I only know Will's because, you know, it's the title.
***After typing this paragraph, I genuinely started looking for a new job. The power of film, people.