Good Will Hunting and Mental Illness

Watched the ending to Good Will Hunting on Youtube. Beautiful as ever, though obviously seen in a different context. It was draining, hearing Elliott Smith sing and seeing Robin Williams close that door. “Stole my line.”

But I felt something else too, something unexpected. As I watched Will drive toward the horizon in the car his friends built, I was struck by the thought that, to me, this was a sweet notion of how to deal with mental illness. You have problems, you see someone for a month, and then you drive on a highway in a painting. I’ve read critiques of the actual therapy scenes in the movie, but haven’t come across a detailed questioning of that ending. Is Will really going to be OK? How far removed is he from the person who brawled in the park? Aren’t emotional issues more complicated? When he hits adversity, will he regress into his angrier tendencies?

Maybe the movie never suggested it was a completely happy ending. After all, he’s abandoned a high paying job that someone who cared deeply about his future setup. Maybe that’s the thing with most movies in general (and I’m saying that as someone who loves movies) You look at a scene like Will riding the train, by himself, back and forth, around Boston, and there’s a romantic quality to that isolation — maybe its because Matt Damon is a handsome fella, maybe its the lighting, maybe its because we see Fenway Park over his shoulder, maybe its the score. But it’s a guy in his early twenties anguished by his past who assaults people and rides a train by himself, but way more importantly, rides a train to nowhere. There’s nothing romantic about that. But in the movie, it has to be. Why? Because we can’t handle it? We can’t handle this character being way uglier than he is presented? Maybe what I’m getting at is — being intimate with your own ugliness can be really hard — and there’s an intimacy that the movie has with elements of that character — but not with the ugliness. And the crazy thing is — I accept these problems with the movie and still think its great — because the answers are so elusive, so hard to convey through character, narrative, in a film.


About mw2828

I am a writer currently working out of the New York area. View all posts by mw2828

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