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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Good Will Hunting: Review

Where would we be if great minds like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton didn't exist? These two genius individuals helped create who and what we are today. These incredible people are said to have a gift, which few could only dream of. What if these individuals decided not to use their gift? Where would we be today? In the film Good Will Hunting, Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is blessed with this gift, but isn't convinced if he should use it. Gus Van Sant who is the director of the film shows us through his vision, using camera, editing and distortion, how he uses his talent to interpret this amazing story of a young man struggling to find himself, and his proper place in the world.

Will keeps his gift to himself. He isn't what society sees as a typical mathematical intellect, being well dressed, law biding, un-athletic, and antisocial. Instead he plays sports, fights a lot, uses foul language, and drinks excessively. He acts this way because it's the way he grew up and he doesn't want to be treated differently because of his gift. When a Hartford professor (Stellan Skarsgard) sees Will's capabilities he can only think of the possibilities a great mind like Will's can achieve. Will, on the other hand would rather work a labor-oriented job for the rest of his life. He believes his job as, a janitor or demolition laborer, are just as noble as any other. The truth is Will isn't psychologically stable and therefore he doesn't know what he really wants. His whole life he lived in different foster homes and was abused excessively by different people. This abuse has lead him to live a life where he pushes people away because he's scared of getting hurt.

Good Will Hunting is a film that conveys many interlocking themes and messages to its viewers. One of these themes is placing trust in the people we care about as well as the people we have only recently become acquainted with. Another message, arguably more significant than the last is finding and pursuing the potential one has and bringing meaning into our lives in any form we choose. I believe the potential and success this film demonstrates is that success, growth, and meaning in a person’s life does not always have to come in the form of advancing in a career or social status but rather in the form of overcoming hardships and developing close reciprocating relationships.

Van Sant makes very strong statements with his use of camera angles and shots. His shots in every scene are beautiful. Each scene is carefully crafted, even when it appears to be very spontaneous. There are some great examples of good camera work in this movie. One example is the scene when Sean (Robin Williams) is in his apartment after his first meeting with Will. He is sitting in a dirty apartment with dishes everywhere, and Sean is sitting at the table, drinking. Van Sant cuts to this gorgeous shot in which he uses a higher angle and places Sean on the right portion of the screen (the weakest), and a glass of whiskey in the left, he then uses the glass of whiskey as the dominant image. This shot creates the sense that Sean is an alcoholic, or at least he drinks often enough where it is beginning to control him. It is very obvious in this shot that the whiskey has the power. Will and Sean are never in the frame together, until the end, after Will's breakdown, and then the composition includes both of them, using a full shot. This clearly identifies the progress of the relationship. It takes Will a long time to trust Sean.

Van Sant's manipulation of the shots in these scenes truly creates that sense of coming together. This is an excellent technique for this movie because it creates an incredible sense of empathy for these characters. The closeness of the camera gives the viewer closeness to the characters. During the movie, there are periodic shots where Will is on a train going to work or Sean's office. Van Sant creates a sense of control by using a high angle shot, making him seem insignificant, or making him seem important and powerful.

Finally, the last element of this film I'd like to point out is the use of film distortions. The best example of this is the use of slow motion during the playground fight scene. Van Sant uses slow motion combined with regular speed during this entire scene. What this does is glorify the idea of violence, but before it gets to be too glamorous, he throws in a few moments of normal speed, which reminds us how bloody and violent fighting is. The jumping around gives the audience a feeling of unrest and disgust at fighting. It feels very urgent, but still normal for these guys to randomly jump someone because of a grudge from kindergarten.

This motion picture serves as a source of excellent example for film technique. Van Sant’s directing ability really reflects how well he interprets sentiment and compassion amongst the viewers of this heart-warming film. Characteristics of the color, angles, shots, camera movement, editing, and distortions are all each particularly noteworthy to the general composition of Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting. The colors used provide visual indication to inform viewers of the objective of the director and cinematographer. Throughout the majority of the film, very natural colors are used. Van Sant’s use of warm tones is a creative way to create a sense of humanity and forms a strong feeling of understanding for Will.

To conclude, Van Sant does an excellent job at directing this film by implementing so many different and creative techniques to tell a story that might otherwise get boring. The uniqueness of the elements and the way they are used, like the kaleidoscope effect, is clever, and well manipulated, and causes the viewer to think about different aspects of the film, and especially of Will. It's especially unique because it does not give you the answer, but makes you figure it out, much like Will has to. Therefore creating a wonderful sense of empathy for Will Hunting.

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