The film adaptation of the musical Dear Evan Hansen is an emotionally provocative roller coaster that does not have enough passengers on board. On premiere night, less than half of the Regal Santa Fe Place theater was full to experience the strong emotional impact the film works to foster through the awareness of mental health disorders.
Still, Dear Evan Hansen does its best to explore feelings of isolation and insufficiency through songs sung by teenagers, even while sacrificing some of the best Broadway tracks.
Starring Broadway’s original Evan Hansen, Ben Platt, as an overthinking nobody, the film begins with an assignment from his therapist to write letters of daily affirmations: “Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day and here’s why… Because all you have to do is be yourself.”
The practice soon snowballs out of hand when one letter turns into a hopeful disaster of continuous lies to the family of another student who has just committed suicide.
Struggling with depression, Connor Murphy, the oldest of two siblings, puts up walls to prevent his family from getting to know him. After taking his own life, his parents desperately try to recollect joyful memories with him, yet his susceptibility to misplaced aggression makes it hard to block out the ways in which he treated others. After searching his room and body, they find a letter from Evan Hansen in his pocket; leading them to believe that his suicide note was addressed to his “dearest, best friend.” Evan makes several attempts to tell them the truth but is interrupted with an invitation to dinner.
Fans of Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen will notice the addition of several phenomenal songs, including: “Anonymous Ones,” and “A Little Closer,” which enhance the perspectives of teenagers wrestling with the fact that not everyone is who they appear.
That said, some of the best original songs “Does Anybody Have a Map,” “Disappear,” “Break In A Glove,” and “Good For You,” are removed, which stunts the character development of Connor Murphy. The vulnerability of both Evan’s and Connor’s parents through song is withheld and the reaction of Evan’s loved ones as they learn of his lies becomes anti-climactic.
Though his death is what sets the plot in motion, Connor’s suicide feels rushed due to the audience’s limited knowledge of him as a character. This makes the transitions between song and normal dialogue feel forced and weak until the characters develop substantial relationships. Once those relationships are developed, the film adaptation brings nothing but a comforting message to the vast majority of the population struggling with mental health. With the reassurance that no one is unknown, the film ends with a powerful line: “Don’t let go, just hold on and keep going. Just keep going.”
Set your thoughts on musicals aside and hop on the roller coaster. The message portrayed in the film Dear Evan Hansen, is worth every penny, tear and smile. What do you have to lose?
Fernanda Rodas is a junior at Mandela International Magnet School. She can be contacted at email@example.com