Dear Evan Hansen, you are more than just a movie

Film rendition of popular broadway musical brings awareness to the mental health of students

On Sept. 24, 2021 Dear Evan Hansen made its way into theaters, changing the way that mental health is adressed in movies.

Photo courtesy of Broadway

On Sept. 24, 2021 Dear Evan Hansen made its way into theaters, changing the way that mental health is adressed in movies.

Kaitlin Reynolds, News Director

 As a frequent listener of the Dear Evan Hansen musical soundtrack, which was released in 2016, I have always wanted to experience the show. However, up until recently when the movie rendition made its way to Omaha cinemas, the high price point and far away Broadway setting made this wish unrealistic. After years of waiting, I entered the theater with high expectations, anticipation and a bag full of freshly popped popcorn.

Much like the 14 song playlist, the film quickly became something that I wanted to revisit. The plot of the musical-like movie follows Evan Hansen (Ben Platt), a senior in high school, who struggles with cripiling anxiety and depression. Following the suicide of classmate, Connor  Murphy (Coltan Ryan), Evan fills the role of Connor’s best friend which was mistakenly placed upon him. Connor’s suicide note, adressed to and written by Evan as an assignment from his therapist which was stolen from the library printer, leads to a complex web of lies that grows until it is inevitably torn down. Throughout the movie Evan attempts to resolve the pain he sees within Connor’s family and help others struggling mentally through social media, as he himself breaks away from issues that previously held him back. 

From the first few scenes I was on the edge of my seat. Throughout a majority of the movie I felt like I was living in this complicated lie with Evan. Each time that I though another character was going to unravel the secrets, I held my breath waiting to see what was going to happen next. Although the suspenseful plot definitely held my interest, I would have liked for the other characters to be let in on the secret sooner. I felt like once it was finally revealed that Evan and Connor were never really friends it was too close to the ending to properly portray the aftermath. 

Fairly early on into the show I realized that there was a big difference between the broadway soundtrack and the playlist included in the film: the music itself. Although some of the original songs were included, with minor changes, new songs were added and most were taken out. This was definitely a disappointing factor because it was my main reasoning behind seeing the show. Despite the lack of a few familiar favorites, I thought that the use of the music included was tasteful and not too overwhelming. Musical numbers were spaced out and I would easily listen to the new songs again.

Throughout the two hour and 17 minute show a variety of topics were introduced that I was able to relay back to my own personal experiences. From mental health challenges to social struggles, the film incorporated many real life issues that high school students face today. I think that the film’s unique relatability is what really pulled me in and kept me wanting more. 

In recent years, a majority of the movies that are set in high school seem to default into stereotypes. The movie more accurately rendered high school student mental health through its broad use of characters. It not only emphasised the presence of mental illnesses in people like Evan, reserved students who steer clear of social interaction, but also in high-achieving students and even the star quarterback of the football team. The films use of diverse characters brought awareness to the different ways that mental health issues present themselves and helped to further cut ties with the inaccurate stereotypes surrounding the topic. 

Despite the lack of a happy ending, I left the theater teary eyed from the numerous heart touching scenes that made up the plot. The film handled the topic of mental health in a unique way that strayed away from cliches. Although the broadway-adjacent film was not what I was anticipatings, as it makes its way on to home streaming services I will definitely be viewing it again.