Movie Review: Dear Evan Hansen

Libby Maier, Critic

Content warning/editor’s note: “Dear Evan Hansen” deals with topics of suicide, depression, and drug abuse.

“Dear Evan Hansen,” the Broadway phenomenon that took the world by storm in 2016, has now been adapted into a feature-length film. 

“Dear Evan Hansen” follows 17-year-old Evan Hansen, played by Ben Platt. Hanson is an anxious and depressed teen who feels utterly alone in this world. The film opens up on Hansen before his first day of senior year as he gets ready for the day, starting almost immediately with the song “Waving Through a Window,” the new opener for the musical. 

Originally in the broadway production, “Anybody have a Map?” was the opening song of the show. This song was sung by the moms of the show, Heidi Hansen and Cynthia Murphy— played in the movie version by Julianne Moore and Amy Adams respectively. The song, for reasons unknown, was cut from the film which changes the story to be more Evan-centered and cuts out most of the outside point of view.

One of the big downfalls of this song being cut is that we are not really introduced to many of the main characters until after Connor Murphy, played by Colton Ryan, kills himself. Speaking of Connor, he is not given a lot of development or screen time for a character that sets the plot of this story in motion. He yells at Evan in the hallway and tries to talk to him in the library before finding a letter Evan wrote to himself, and that’s the last time we see Connor alive. 

For the rest of the movie Connor isn’t really present except for  “Sincerely Me” and “A Little Closer”. This could be because for the rest of the film the Connor that viewers are being shown is the Connor that Evan made up to convince people he was friends with him. 

What can make or break a musical is the transition from dialogue to song and back; as well as setting the song in the right scene to make sense within the show. While the film has a few smooth transitions, a good portion of them feel awkward and out of place which can ruin the impact of the song and the movie experience as a whole. An example of this is “For Forever.”

One of the best musical performances in the entire movie was “Requiem,” sung by Zoe Murphy who is played by Kaitlyn Denver. “Requiem” is one of the more emotional songs in the show as it focuses on the Murphys, mostly Connors sister Zoe, as they try to come to terms with the loss of Connor and their grief in their own ways. With Cynthia being destroyed, Zoe feeling conflicted, and Larry just shoving it down feeling indifferent

Amy Adams and Danny Pino (Larry Murphy) give heart-wrenching performances that stayed true to the characters they were playing. With the Broadway show being one of a limited set, the staging of “Requiem” was executed perfectly, showing the conflict within Zoe as she tries to figure out her feelings about Connors death. Yes he was her brother but he wasn’t a very good one for most of the years leading up to his death.

As for the new songs added to the movie, they didn’t have much of an impact. “The Anonymous Ones” and “A Little Closer” were added to the film in place of “Disappear” and “Finale.” While “the Anonymous Ones” sang by Alana Beck – Played by Amandla Stenburg – a touching song for the people who feel invisible in the world, it just doesn’t get across the same point and emotion that “Disappear” gives in the Broadway show. Lines like “no one deserves to be forgotten” hit harder than the entirety of “Anonymous.”

The vocal performances were steller across the board. While a lot could be said about the plot and direction of the film, the music was incredible.

The end of the movie doesn’t give the viewers a satisfying conclusion. There is only a montage of Evan slightly trying to make amends for all the damage he’s done but that’s all that is shown of the process. On top of the lack of accountability for his actions, Zoe at the end isn’t really mad at Evan anymore. While there is a possibility that she did forgive him, within the time period between when the truth was revealed and the end of the movie it does not seem likely. 

“Dear Evan Hansen” is a touching musical, about loss, lies, and moving on in this day and age. It’s highly recommend going to see the film or even just listening to the soundtrack.