Thursday, May 31, 2007

Good Will Hunting

This was a Warner Brothers production in the late 1990s starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Robin Williams who won an Oscar for his supporting role. It was also remarkable that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won the Special Achievement in Filmmaking as well as the Oscar for best screenplay. This movie was made about 8 years ago and Matt Damon was so young that I did not know who he was.

The movie is about Will Hunting who was so brilliant that he could solve problems that Nobel Prize winners in mathematics could not, that he could cite all the great literary works at the snap of his fingers and he literary had a professor at MIT on his knees when he burnt a mathematical solution in retaliation for what he thought the professor was doing to him.

Yet he never went to school and chose to live his life as a janitor in MIT, goes for drinks with his working-class buddies never wanting to step beyond an existence where he knew that he would be safe from redicule and harm. When he got into trouble with the law and was facing a jail sentence, the MIT professor managed to help him stay away from jail by promising the judge that he would be responsible for Will. Will, in turn would have to help the professor in his academic pursuits because Will was the mathematical genius.

In addition, he would have to undergo therapy for a set period of time till he became 21 years of age so that his anger could be managed for him to stay out of trouble. This was when he met Sean McGuire, his therapist and counsellor who was the professor's friend. Will refused to be helped at first because he wanted no one to know of his past. Sean McGuire shared a similar background with Will in that he was an abused child and in the process of counselling Will, both were able to confront the demons or their respective past and to come to terms with their emotions.

Will Hunting eventually realised what was was stopping him from venturing beyond the walls of his current life in the course of the therapy and Sean McGuire realised that, like Will, he was undermining his own potentials and capabilities because of a shadowed past. A love story was in there as well when Will met a medical student at Harvard who fell in love with him. Again he could not bring himself to love her because he was afraid of entering her world where he feared he would not be able to fit in.

I thought hard about this movie that I watched on a VCD with my son yesterday. What was the message in the movie? Was there one? I detected a few, the main one being that if we do not know what we want in life, we will be stuck in time in one place for the rest of our lives. To know what we want, we have to know what we are good at and develop that strength by keeping an eye open for opportunities that come our way. If they don't come, we have to go and find them.

Will Hunting was prepared to live out the rest of his life doing menial jobs because he did not want his genius to be known as he was abused by his father as a child resulting in a fear and distrust in people. Thus he covered up his brilliance because he did not want to be in contact with people outside the safety provided by his buddies and being in a place in which no one could rule his life and he did not have to mingle with others whom he feared will hurt or abandon him.

But when he, through the help of Sean McGuire, learned to let go of his fears that were entrenched deep in his life because of his abused childhood, he began to see the opportunities around him and once he sees them, he was able to set his goals and exercise his options i.e. he finally knew what he wanted in life. He finally realised that he had abilitities that he should tap on and not hide.

In real life, we are like Will Hunting. We may not have extreme brilliance but we do have enough worth in us to start with. Some of us are inclined towards the sciences, some the arts and some sports. In any one of these three, we need to set ourselves up for success in whichever field that we choose to earn a living in. It's like national service. Every one has to pass basic military training before being channeled into the various fields. Every one has the capability to pass this basic training stage. If you fail, it's really because of a physical handicap or mental weakness.

Once you get over this hurdle of school, you will see more opportunities before you. If you don't get over this hurdle as Will Hunting did, you would be stuck as he would have been, as a janitor for the rest of his life. Getting through school and graduating with the 'A' levels can be considered as the basics. Everyone has a reasonable potential to do well enough to enter a polytechnic or the university.

We have fears and hang ups that could prevent us from doing well in our studies just as Will Hunting was unable to get himself through a formal education because he fears rejection and hurt. But once he overcame that fear, he was able to soar.

Many teenagers today do not know what they want to do with their lives. They are like Will Hunting. These teenagers have so many opportunities before their eyes but they do not see them because their vision of their future is clouded by the distractions of the day that are mostly about having fun now or never, instant gratification, shooting aliens on the screen, boy-girl relationships without bothering to think about responsibilities because parents are always there to bail them out.

The Will Huntings of this generation are not held back by their past but by their parents who pamper them too much so that there is no motivation to venture out of their current existence where "I don't know", "Anything", "Whatever" are the key words in their vocabulary.

But I am optimistic that there is still a chance that these teens will one day find the demons that are holding them back, slaughter them and venture out to a new world where they are not shackled by all the things and ideas that make them feel that life is good as it is and should carry on for as long as they find it unnecessary to think about the future.

Will Hunting was set free by an extraordinary counsellor. Parents are no match but parents do try and this movie gives a glimmer of hope to parents - that one day, somehow, a switch will flick on magically to light up the possibilities for the teenager and wake him up from his slumber.

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