Review of “Dear Evan Hansen”


Jack Armstrong

Being an actor, one would think it would be a terrible sin that I have never seen the stage play for “Dear Evan Hansen”. The story, while I didn’t know much about it, was something that always intrigued me. Thus, when I heard about and watched the trailer for the movie version of “Dear Evan Hansen,” I was excited to finally see what was in store for this iconic Broadway musical in film form!

However, one thing that immediately caught my eye upon watching the trailer was Ben Platt, the actor portraying Evan Hansen. He is supposed to be playing a high school kid, yet he looked more than twice the age of a teenager. Even with that thought in mind, I still went ahead and watched the film. After leaving the theater, I could safely say that it was merely passable and worth watching only once.

“Dear Evan Hansen” is about 17-year-old Evan Hansen, a boy with depression who actively goes to therapy. Hansen is given an assignment by his therapist to write letters to himself with every letter starting with “Dear Evan Hansen” and ending with “Sincerely, Me.” However, the school bully, Connor, goes ahead and steals one of these letters from Evan Hansen and is later found dead, a victim of suicide, holding this letter. Hansen now feels obligated to connect with Connor’s family and talk to them about his friendship with their son—without them being aware that the two were not close.

Admittedly, I found the story very interesting, even if it felt at points like a condensed version of the stage play. I also enjoyed that this film doubled as musical! The songs are catchy with lyrics that get lodged in your head for weeks. Most of these songs are sung by Ben Platt, who also played the Evan Hansen actor on Broadway. Simply put, his voice is electrifying. Platt, despite the clear age difference between the other actors, also fits the character perfectly. He captures the awkwardness and social anxiety of a high school kid incredibly well.

Looking for other thoughts, I talked to some of my friends who have seen the Broadway show. They said that they were fairly disappointed by this film because they left out several plot points/songs to fit a two-hour runtime. Hearing that, I couldn’t help but feel that I had been cheated out of the full experience of seeing the stage rendition of this play.

That’s when the flaws of the film began to emerge, as I remembered the events of the story. The movie often feels rushed and choppy. It felt like the script tried too hard to be loyal to the Broadway show, with the format of the movie feeling more akin to a play than a film. It felt like it went from a two-minute scene and song, to another two-minute scene and song, to another, to another, etc.

The acting from the other actors also felt a bit off. Ben Platt owns the role of Evan Hansen incredibly well even though he’s 28. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like he stole the show from the everyone else. Amy Adams, Colton Ryan, Kaitlyn Dever, and the other actors did a passable job at best. Without spoiling what exactly happens at the end, it felt like something was missing. Almost like there was a grander part of the story that was supposed to happen but had to be left out for the sake of keeping a low runtime.

Despite all of this, however, the movie was very informative about depression. With many of the characters suffering from the affliction, it was interesting to see how each one dealt with their version of this mental disorder. Again, though, people who have seen the stage play felt that their interpretation of the different types of depression was massively underplayed compared to the play.

I still found this movie informing, however, and it gave me a new perspective on the different types of depression. If you’re interested in seeing Dear Evan Hansen, I’d recommend you give it a shot but don’t expect something incredible out of it. If you are on the fence about seeing this film, then I would suggest that you find an opportunity to see the stage play if you haven’t already. You would probably gain a better experience of the story from the play rather than the film. While I enjoyed Dear Evan Hansen for what it was, it’s something I probably won’t watch again.