Dear Evan Hansen – Movie Review


Dear Evan Hansen- the movie- is out! “Today no matter what else, today at least you are you.” -Dear Evan Hansen

Ariana Chernis

Dear Evan Hansen is a movie remake of a broadway show. In this movie a socially anxious boy, Evan Hansen, a high school senior, struggles with depression and anxiety and is tasked with writing letters to himself by his therapist. After accidentally printing one of his letters, the bully, Connor, finds the letter, blows up on him, and storms off with it. While Evan Hansen is busy worrying about his letter being posted to the internet, Connor has been absent for three days. Evan soon learns that Connor had taken his life; the only thing next to him was the letter that Evan had written to himself. Connor’s parents confuse Evan for being one of Connor’s closest and dearest friends. Evan goes along with it even though he had barely known Connor. Thus, the plot for the film develops as this ruse of his takes Evan to new heights.

First and foremost this movie has very strong themes of suicide, depression, anxiety, mental illness, loss, and grief. It was a hard watch as a result of these themes and people should consider this before watching. Although Dear Evan Hansen does touch on some very important issues, and right in time for the close of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. One of the most important things from the movie that was geared to mental health awareness and help was a group one of the characters, Alana Beck, created: The Connor Project. It was very important as students at the school and even people everywhere felt they were not alone. That’s an important message people everywhere need to recognize. In the movie, people all around the world connected, especially the students at school. I would say this definitely helped them.

On the other hand, I would say this is one of the only things that the movie did to gear towards mental health. I would have loved to see more ways to stay mentally healthy including resources and recovery. For a movie with such a huge opening and heaviness on mental illness, it did not give what it had the potential to. There were so many missed opportunities to promote emotional well-being, but instead focus was given only to Evan Hansen, mostly digging himself into a deeper hole. It also gives mental illness a bad name. Evan Hansen, who clearly deals with anxiety and depression, becomes a manipulative character, even gaining from a dead classmate. It is harmful to portray mental illness in this way, making mental illness an excuse for horrible things this character does to a grieving family. His mental illness did not force him to continuously lie and keep up this ruse he started. It is painfully obvious they intend to make Evan a tragic hero, and while some of his actions can be understood, they are certainly inexcusable. He takes away a mother’s chance to grieve her dead son and distorts a family’s memory of their dead child.

Additionally, the actor, Ben Platt, who played Evan Hansen was 27 years old when the movie was filmed. This makes for a pretty unbelievable 17 year old. Though the actor had an amazing voice and great acting skills, it was hard to believe this character was supposed to be my age. The other actors and actresses were around the same age, but had more convincing performances. This is important because he has to be this young in order for people to sympathize with his unique mistakes. When a character is painted as young and naive, it’s easier to sympathize with their mistakes and forgive them, rather than a character who is older and should know better. 

One of the things I enjoyed most about this movie was the music, thanks to Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriters. The songwriters also wrote for La La Land, The Greatest Showman, A Christmas Story, Dogfight, Trolls, and more. It’s no wonder the Dear Evan Hansen Original Broadway Cast Recording won the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The songs were amazing and the voice of Ben Platt especially was unmatchable. Listening to the lyrics, I thought they were all statements and very important to hear. Songs like “Waving Through A Window” and “The Anonymous Ones” were some of those. They portrayed messages like never being alone and making sure our peers feel heard. They were necessary lessons to learn and made the movie much more enjoyable.

Overall, I think it’s a good idea to give this movie a watch.  Though there were many missed opportunities, it showcases issues that need to be acknowledged and addressed. Had there been more movies made about mental illness and mental health there would be more to compare, but at the moment this is what we have and it’s essential we keep the conversation going.