Taking a break in between Kevin Smith movies, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote and starred in Good Will Hunting, the film which not only earned them an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay but put them on the map as actors to look out for.
Of course, they would both go on to star in "Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season" (see Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back) and one of them is now Batman but that's another story.
The film sees a brainy yet volatile janitor solve a complicated equation on an MIT chalkboard before a professor notices his impressive capabilities and encourages him to become his protégé. Unfortunately, young Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has just been arrested for assault and he's showing no improvements in his personality. Therefore, Stellan Skarsgård's professor makes him see a therapist in order to stay out of jail and perhaps live up to his full potential eventually. After going through a bunch of ineffectual doctors, Hunting meets Dr. Sean Maguire (Williams) and the latter proves to hold his own against him much better than the others so we follow their sessions and Hunting's relationship with student Skylar (the adorable/kinda annoying Minnie Driver).
The film is directed by Gus Van Sant and it was a commercial and critical hit upon its release, even earning Robin Williams his only Oscar win. Williams' restrained, layered performance pretty much steals the show as both a flawed yet warm father figure and a skilled therapist. Dr. Maguire sets the record straight with Hunting right off the bat and his own personal troubles which come to light upon their very first meeting help him become someone the boy genius can talk to about relationships and everyday stuff. This all culminates in a moving scene which, in the wrong hands, could have come off as corny and/or pretentious but with both Williams and Damon giving it their best and the writing being this tight and well paced, it's a manipulative little moment which, somehow, totally works.
Good Will Hunting earns these moments through strong performances, a consistently solid script and mercifully not over-stylised direction from Van Sant. It's easy to see why it did so well both at the Oscars and with audiences in general: this is a surprisingly likeable and well made flick packed with interesting characters and memorable small but effective moments.