Film Review: 'Dear Evan Hansen'

John Thomas

“Dear Evan Hansen. Why today will be good.” Thus begins a daily letter Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) writes to himself. The letter and several medications have been ordered by his physician to remedy his diagnosed social anxiety disorder. His disorder is rarely solved by these interventions, but, regardless, he begins each day with a letter.

His first day as a high school senior is fraught with enough issues, without adding a new cast on his arm resulting from a fall from a tree. His mother, Heidi Hansen (Julianne Moore), suggests he take a felt marker with him so he can make friends by asking his classmates to sign his cast.

His spirits are somewhat lifted at the opening day rally. His love interest, Zoe (Karilyn Dever), is a member of the school band and sits across from him playing her guitar. There is brief eye contact but enough for Evan to include seeing her in his daily letter. In the library, he types the letter focusing on the futility of his life, what could he do to better it and would anyone notice if he disappeared completely?

Just as he is about to retrieve his letter from the printer, Connor, a fellow student appears. Connor has more mental problems than Evan but offers to be the first to sign his cast. He does so in large letters. Seeing his sister Zoe’s name in Evan’s letter, he becomes enraged, snatches the letter from Evan and storms off.

Days later, Evan is called into the principal’s office to meet with Connor’s parents. Their son and his suicide are a mystery to them all. The only indication of his problems are outlined in a note he left to his friend Evan.

The note begins: Dear Evan Hansen. Much as he tries to convince them otherwise, Connor’s parents feel this note is to their son’s best and only friend. They want to know more – anything. To help perpetuate the illusion of friendship, Evan enlists the help of a friend who creates imaginary email correspondences between Connor and Evan.

Evan finally allows the hoax, feeling it better for everyone to live happily in a lie than be miserable with the truth. Unfortunately, the lie twists, turns and grows to the point it becomes beyond anyone’s control. Classmates decide to honor Connor by refurbishing one of Connor’s favorite places – an apple orchard.

The Connor Project hits the internet with great impact, soon gaining thousands of followers and enough money to redo the orchard. People connect and sympathize with Connor’s problems making Evan even more miserable because he knows everything is a lie.

It doesn’t help Evan’s anguish to see Connor’s parents and the world embrace the ever-expanding events with the Connor Project. Even Zoe is happy over the unspoken joy she discovers her brother had for her. The burden of guilt over creating this monster weigh heavily on Evan.

He eventually feels he must do something; he can’t bear the ruse any longer and lie to so many persons. He ponders what would happen if he did nothing about it, let it continue, or if he reveals the lie for what it is and then simply disappears, himself?

Directed by Stephen Chbosky (Credits: Wonder, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) this is a “should see” production that runs 137 minutes.


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