Movie: Dear Evan Hansen
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Ben Platt, Amy Adams and Julianne Moore
Studio: Universal Pictures
Warning: This story includes spoilers.
“Dear Evan Hansen” is the mental health movie of the year, with an inspiring message: “You Will Be Found.”
Creating a film adaptation of the six-time Tony award-winning Broadway musical was bound to be a difficult task, but Director Stephen Chbosky was able to execute it with ease.
“Dear Evan Hansen” follows high school student Evan Hansen, an aloof social outcast who longs to find his place, and Connor Murphy, a mentally ill high school student, who, after dying by suicide, has his death exploited by characters, including Evan, for clout.
The musical and movie were inspired by the true story of Benj Pasek, the show’s lyricist, who, after a high school classmate died of a drug overdose, witnessed classmates tell false stories of being part of the deceased student’s life.
The movie begins with Evan as he walks into his senior pep rally to the song, “Waving Through A Window.” The music reaches its climax when Evan reaches the auditorium, where he stands alone as everyone passes around him. Evan’s doctor requires him to write letters to himself about his day:
“Dear Evan Hansen,
It turns out this wasn’t an amazing day after all. This isn’t going to be an amazing week or an amazing year. Because, why would it be?.....
Sincerely, your best and most dearest friend,
This letter gets into the hands of Connor, a fellow student who also didn’t have any friends and was an outcast at school. After Connor is found with this letter in his pocket, his parents believe it was addressed by him to Evan — and that the two were secret friends.
Egged on by Connor’s parents, Evan decides to lie to the family and the world about his supposed friendship with Connor. He raises money for Connor’s memorial, delivers a viral speech and makes up stories about their supposed friendship.
Eventually, the lies catch up to him and he is forced to reveal to Connor’s family, and the world, what he has done.
Evan, determined to rewrite his wrongs, dives into searching for someone, anyone, with a connection to Connor.
The film ends with Connor playing an emotional song from when he was in recovery, forcing a tear out of even the most cynical of viewers.
While the movie largely sticks to the musical’s soundtrack, it forgoes one song from the broadway version, “Good For You,” in exchange for a simple argument in the movie. The lyrical interpretation would have created a more emotional tension, but the music still stands out: Chbosky added two new songs that still pull at the heartstrings in “The Anonymous Ones” by Amadla Stenberg, who plays Alana Beck, and “A Little Closer” by Colton Ryan, who plays Connor Murphy.
While the background characters are predominantly played by teenagers, the entire main cast consists of adults. Ben Platt, who plays Evan Hansen in both the movie and the original Broadway show, has a phenomenal voice and plays the character well but now, at 28, he is a decade older than the average senior in high school.
The movie ends with Evan Hansen writing another letter to himself:
“Dear Evan Hansen,
Today is gonna be a good day because at least you’re you and that’s enough.”
Dan Eastman is the asst. managing editor and can be reached at email@example.com