Artwork by Chloe Leeson
I watched ‘Good Will Hunting’ while laying in bed. This quickly turned to laying in bed crying, because this 1997 drama about a genius janitor reduced me to an emotional wreck. I didn’t see it coming, but over the 126 minute run time, ‘Good Will Hunting’ had changed my life just that tiny bit.
It sounds childish, but ‘Good Will Hunting’ taught me I could, in fact, care incredibly deeply about a film exclusively about male problems. It’s not unusual for me to like films about men (how can you not when 90% of the films made are about them) but I often find myself thinking ‘this would be better if it was about women’, and then my brain just wanders and I forget to concentrate on the plot because I’m thinking about how radically punk women tend to be. Anyway, I’m glad ‘Good Will Hunting’ is about men. Why? For a multitude of reasons!
It explores male friendship in a way that doesn’t revolve around a sexist portrayal of women, it avoids and thus challenges the stereotypes surrounding working class young men, and most importantly it’s a totally fantastic critique of this idea of the Ultimate Male Success and Attainment of Greatness. Rich and successful men tell Will Hunting and Sean Maguire that they are letting their talent and intelligence rot and waste by not using it to support corporations or elite schools which often, men of their backgrounds are excluded from – yet it is those men, not Will or Sean, who are crushed by insecurities. Focusing on men of course doesn’t really leave much space for women. But Skylar, the only woman in the film, is wonderfully well developed. A female character is central to the film’s conflict but she’s not demonised because of it, and for a character written by two men, Skylar seems to me to be remarkably realistic.
Importantly, for me ‘Good Will Hunting’ is a hopeful film. I don’t profess to know much at all about the childhoods of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but from what I do know, they came from relatively humble beginnings. As someone with a pipe dream of being a screenwriter it was amazing to watch this hugely successful and excellent film, knowing it had been written by two young guys who’d been pals since they were 10 years old. Plus, their genuinely thrilled Oscar acceptance speech makes me cry (‘everyone back in Boston watching us tonight!’).
I don’t know why this film got me as much as it did, apart from the reasons I’ve listed above. Primarily it’s probably because I value and appreciate deeply films that AREN’T about the bourgeois middle class. It’s little things too; shots of Matt Damon on night time trains, lines like ‘my boy’s wicked smart!’ and my favourite idiom ‘how do you like THEM apples!’, the Boston accents which I am inexplicably and hopelessly attracted to, the Elliot Smith sountrack. The bit when Chuck tells Will that the best part of his day is walking up to his house hoping he might not be there. The deconstruction of privileged male superiority complexes to do with intelligence in that bar scene. All I know is that I really love ‘Good Will Hunting’ and that Ben Affleck reduced me to a sobbing mess, something I never knew was possible.
Ashley is a 17 year old from Norwich. She loves Belle and Sebastian, Taylor Swift, dancing badly and porridge, mostly. Her favourite films include Frances Ha, The Royal Tenenbaums and Beasts of the Southern Wild. She has a very deep affinity with that bit in Inside Llewyn Davis where he stares at toilet wall graffiti that says ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’. Tends to tweet about her life in an over-dramatic way @heartswellss.