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"Both films give us young people who discover that their own will and perseverance, coupled with caring mentors and counselors, can lead them to new horizons."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
He is an award-winning
His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above or by clicking here.
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
The empowering message of director Gus Van Sant's 1997 film Good Will Hunting is that we don't have to remain victims of our past experiences – we can move beyond them.
The empowering message of Van Sant's newest film, Finding Forrester, is that our environment and birth conditions don't have to hold us back – we can move beyond them.
Both films - especially valuable for teenagers - show that it is possible to overcome emotional and situational barriers, and to make our dreams and desires come true. Both films give us young people who discover that their own will and perseverance, coupled with caring mentors and counselors, can lead them to new horizons.
Often the catalyst for personal transformation comes from the encouragement of someone who cares and understands. In Good Will Hunting, Will (Matt Damon) has his counselor, Sean McGuire (Robin Williams), to teach him that what others did or didn't do to him is "not your fault."
Likewise, Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), a black teenager in the Bronx, finds reclusive writer William Forrester (Sean Connery) to encourage him to show any doubters "what you can do."
Like Will, Jamal is brilliant, although he knows that his basketball prowess rather than his intelligence garners him acceptance among peers.
What Jamal, a talented writer himself, lacks is confidence and direction, and that's what his friendship with Forrester, a successful one-time novelist, brings to him.
Forrester assists Jamal in understanding the head and heart connection in writing - and in life. "You write your first draft with your heart, but you rewrite with your head," Forrester tells Jamal. In matters of general living, that's good advice. We act first with our heart, our spiritual intuition, and then use our sense and learning to bring more good into the world.
To start Jamal writing, Forrester gives him a manuscript to type and says, "When you begin to feel your own words, start typing them." Again, that's good general advice. We begin by studying and learning what others have done, and we advance to making our own contributions and letting our own talents and light shine.
Though he's something of a cantankerous artiste, Forrester has a strong sense of right and wrong, and thus is a role model of integrity for the young Jamal. The two teach each other about the value of friendship and also about the true nature of family - that our real family isn't a matter of blood or race, but a matter of spiritual oneness with all.
Forrester speaks of "the family that can become our blood."
Finding Forrester is a little of Good Will Hunting, a bit of Dead Poet's Society, a touch of Scent of a Woman, a whiff of Smoke, and a dash of Slam.
Ultimately, however, Finding Forrester is its own excellent creation that mirrors some of the challenges most of us go through, perhaps especially as teenagers, to find confidence in ourselves and to know our own self-worth.