What’s the Climax of Good Will Hunting?

Quick Answer: Good Will Hunting’s climax is Will going to “see about a girl.” Over the course of his therapy with Sean, he learns to trust again and take a chance on a better life.

People email questions from time-to-time. I’ve always answered these questions. I’ve also always deleted every single one of them within 60 seconds of hitting the send button. Never thought to post the questions until today. This one deals with my analysis of Good Will Hunting:

I just read your analysis of Good Will Hunting and if it’s okay by you I just wanted to get some clarification. I always thought the climax of Good Will Hunting was the “It’s not your fault” scene.

But I guess in that scene Will is on the defensive whereas in his decision to leave to go to Skylar he has truly taken the offensive. Was that your justification for making it the climax?

We’re in a subjective space here. Above all else, analyses/breakdowns like mine are meant to help the aspiring writer detect patterns. The patterns I found led me those beats. But to answer your question: The “It’s not your fault” scene is an internal beat. Will is trusting someone emotionally again. He doesn’t have that with any of his friends, or Skylar, for that matter. But Sean is his therapist, not a partner. He’s simply opened a door for Will. It’s Will’s choice as to whether or not he walks through it. Notice how Will never has such a scene with Lambeau? He always kept Lambeau at a distance, like there was an underlying contempt for using your brain to work instead of your body. That lines up against his blue collar identity, the rejection of a white collar career, the friends in his life, and why a therapist/Vietnam vet from South Boston could be the only one to get through to him. That’s the reason I paired Will trusting Sean in the “It’s not your fault” scene with Will accepting the job at McNeil (internal and external points of no return). Those two beats in particular setup Will taking a chance on what the future could bring with Skylar; Will rejecting the safe, white collar identity for giving a shot at trust and intimacy with Skylar. That’s why, in my opinion, it’s the climax.

Learn More About Good Will Hunting from Louis CK

William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

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