Dear Evan Hansen: A Letter to Mental Health

Katie Keller, Opinion Editor

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why.

Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen, which has run on Broadway since July 2015, hit theaters with a movie adaptation, released Sept. 24. Ben Platt continues from stage to screen as the title character with the rest of the main cast including Amy Adams, Kaitlyn Dever, Nik Dodani, Julianne Moore, Danny Mora, Colton Ryan and Amandla Stenberg.

The plot of the film follows high school senior Evan Hansen, who gets entangled in the suicide of classmate Connor Murphy (Ryan) when his parents and younger sister mistakenly believe Evan to have been Connor’s only friend. Soon, his white lie spirals out of control and Evan must find the courage to face himself.

Fans have been waiting for quite a long time to see a film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen and this one wasn’t let down by what she got. Stage to screen adaptations are often easier than adapting a book because some of the issues a movie faces, a play will also face, the main one being running time. The movie did well at keeping up with the original story, though multiple songs from the original play were cut. 

I didn’t find myself missing a ton of the cut content, but I did miss one song in particular. I’ve always loved the opening number from the stage play, “Anybody Have A Map?” In this song, Evan and Connor’s moms (Moore and Adams respectively) are trying to connect with their sons on the first day of school. What’s poetic about this number is that both of them ultimately fail at this. Including “Anybody Have A Map?” would have made this failure much more prominent. This is also a matter of personal opinion, but while “Waving Through A Window” is a great song that addresses the feeling of invisibility that everybody’s felt at one point or another, “Anybody Have A Map?” would have been a much stronger opening both in connections to the story and in how it’s more upbeat. 

On the topic of songs, there was a new song that wasn’t in the play. “The Anonymous Ones,” performed by Stenberg’s character, Alana Beck, focuses on putting on a façade and pretending to be okay when you’re really not. This is such an identifiable song and I wasn’t mad that it replaced some of the original songs for the play, not to mention Stenberg has an amazing singing voice.

I only had one other minor complaint with the movie and that was with casting. I love that the film had a very diverse cast, but Evan Hansen, played by 27-year-old Ben Platt, looks more like a college student than a high school student. While Platt is certainly very talented, it felt like the filmmakers were just doing what was comfortable instead of expanding and trying something new. 

The story as a whole is one that I absolutely love and adore and want to spread the message about. It touches on topics such as suicide, depression, anxiety and other topics that seem taboo, but addresses these in a relatable way. We’ve all felt like Evan and Connor at some point, misunderstood and waiting for someone to reach out to us, and the story does a beautiful job of telling the audience they’re not alone, even when it feels like it.

Mental health is a real problem, so if you’re reading this and you’re struggling or you know someone who’s struggling, never forget that you will be found and it will get better. No matter how hard it is or impossible it seems, asking for help is always an option. To anyone, whether you’re waving through a window or not, I recommend this film.