The Relevance of Film in our Lives: “Good Will Hunting”

By John Hodge

As a senior, I have recently spent a great deal of time meditating on the future.  What will I be doing this time next year?  Where will I be?  Who will I be with? Questions of this sort are simultaneously exhilarating and mortifying, which is a bizarre way to feel.

I am aware that this is a somewhat cliché way to start an article. That being said, I believe these feelings are incredibly real and that regardless of where we are in our lives, we think about these things quite often.  This article is a film review, but it is not merely an opinion piece on why “Good Will Hunting” is an effective film; I hope to put the film in a certain context, to change the way you think about this film when you re-watch it, or influence how you watch it if you haven’t seen it (God forbid).

“Good Will Hunting,” first and foremost, is a film that wants to make a clear and concise point of tremendous profundity. It seems so simple, but when you really think about it, the internal battle we have with ourselves is the greatest war we are likely to face. The entire theme of the film is this: life is about taking chances. If you allow your inhibitions to prevent you from putting yourself out there, you will inevitably miss all the sweetness life has to offer you. This idea transcends all the minutia and tedious detail we normally include in our reflections on the future—what we generally consider to be important. The theme isn’t “study hard, get into college, study harder, get a good job”… on and on that wheel turns. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) is pleading with you to open your eyes and see life for what it truly is and what about it is so amazing. Of course, those other things are crucial, but Sean is trying to remind you why life, on its own, is so sacred to us in the first place.

To borrow from a monologue performed by Robin Williams in a different though equally impactful film, “Dead Poets Society”:

Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.”

It would be helpful to supplement this point with actual evidence from “Good Will Hunting.” However, I will not spoil any details for the sad few of you who haven’t seen the film. In fact, drawing your own insights from the film is what makes it personal to you, and I would not want to deprive you of that experience.

 

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