TW: Suicide & Mental Illness
This past Sunday, a few of my friends and I ventured to the Hamilton Movie Theater for the screening of “Dear Evan Hansen.” For those unfamiliar with “Dear Evan Hansen,” it made its original debut on Broadway back in 2016. Starring Ben Platt, the musical was a nationwide sensation, critically acclaimed by many journalists, celebrities and theater-goers. Platt plays Evan Hansen, a teenage boy who struggles with anxiety and depression, in both the Broadway and film version. The story follows Evan and his first few weeks back at school after a long summer. The story unfolds as Evan lies about a friendship he had with a student, Connor, whose tragic and sudden suicide sparks shock to the community. The story continues from there, as Hansen develops a relationship with Connor’s family, playing into the false relationship the two boys had. The topics in “Dear Evan Hansen” bring light to conversations surrounding mental health.
Having gotten the chance to see the Broadway rendition of the film a few years back at New York City’s Music Box theatre, my expectations were set high. The only member of the cast featured in both the musical and the film is Platt himself. The film stars many well known actors such as Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani and Kaitlyn Dever. With such an experienced cast, I felt there was a lot of pressure on the film as a whole. Any time a work of art does so well through a different mode of performance, the stakes are incredibly high. This can be said for “West Side Story,” “Mamma Mia,” “Mean Girls” and a plethora of other works.
A notable difference about the movie compared to the show is that some of the hit songs are missing. Obviously it would be impossible to include every number, and only those aware of the previous numbers would notice. “Anyone have a Map?” and “Good for You” were two notable tracks (and two of my personal favorites) that did not appear in the film. The biggest track of the film, “You will be Found,” was a personal standout. The song is performed by Platt and voices that when things seem like they can’t get better, you will be found and that you are never alone. The message is both strong and empowering.
The film’s overall reception has been both positive and negative. David Sims from The Atlantic recently published an article titled “When a Hit Musical Becomes a Bad Movie.” Sims writes:
“This adaptation was probably doomed from the start, no matter who was going to play the lead. The combination of high expectations and some of the show’s baked-in narrative shortcomings means ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ would have needed a miracle to land in cinemas with anything but a thud. Instead, almost everything imaginable has gone wrong on the journey from stage to screen, and the result is a film that isn’t even ‘so bad it’s good,’ like some other recent musical movies; mostly, it’s just painful to watch.”
David Fear from The Rolling Stone begins his review with this statement:
“We may as well get this out of the way now: Ben Platt is 28 years old.”
Although the film is not receiving the highest levels of praise from journalists and film critics nationwide, “Dear Evan Hansen” teaches its audience the importance of de-stigmatizing conversations around mental health, highlighting that it is okay to not be okay.