Dear Evan Hansen Parent Guide
This film succeeds at opening a conversation about the sensitive and critical subject of adolescent mental health.
Parent Movie Review
You would think it would have been hard to sell a script about suicide as a Broadway play, let alone one that is also a musical. But five years later, Dear Evan Hansen has won enough accolades that it has been adapted for the big screen. So, how successfully does this story sing its way around the snares of this sensitive topic? Your answer will likely depend upon your own personal experiences with a huge range of emotional fireballs and the mental madness that accompanies adolescent life.
Evan Hansen (played by the original stage actor, Ben Platt) is a teen barely coping with a confluence of anxiety, depression, and major social awkwardness. His therapist has encouraged him to write a daily letter to himself to help build his confidence. He begins on day one of his senior year, but his note-to-self isn’t very happy. His only crush, Zoe (Kaitlyn Dever) happens to be the younger sister of Conner (Colton Ryan), another troubled youth who targets Evan in the hallway. At day’s end, after authoring his thoughts, Evan clicks print, and the anything-but-private school printer delivers the paper into Conner’s hands. When Conner notices the mention of his sister in the text, he is irate and pockets the paper. Evan is convinced the note, which concludes with wondering if the world would even miss him, will wind up on social media.
Three days later there’s no sign of the letter or Conner. And that’s when Evan is asked to meet with Conner’s parents (Amy Adams, Daniel Pino). The distraught couple shares the news that Conner has taken his life. The only clue they have about their son’s final thoughts is a scrap of paper found in his jacket pocket with the salutation, “Dear Evan Hansen”. Although a stammering Evan tries to correct their misconception, he can’t quite bring himself to disappointing Conner’s mother who is clinging desperately to the comforting notion that her son at least had one good friend—Evan Hansen. With the allure of being able to provide some solace for Conner’s family, Evan’s muddled mind begins fabricating the tale of a best friend, a loving son and an appreciative brother. With the passing weeks, forged emails embellished with Hallmark-worthy sentiments become Conner’s revised eulogy. In turn, Evan finds himself wrapped in the love of a new family that includes his crush and a home life that puts his single mother’s (Julianne Moore) faltering efforts to shame.
Ultimately, your evaluation of this movie will depend on your feelings of empathy or disgust for Evan. I found myself whispering, “Don’t do it!” when this young man begins his slide into a canyon of lies. Yet, it would be wrong to discount Evan’s emotional distress, mental illness, and desperate need for love and acceptance. At the very least his dilemma is great reason to engage in a soul-searching discussion about whether or not you would buckle to similar pressure if all things were equal.
Geared towards a teen and adult audience, the film includes depictions of prescription drug use, mentions of substance abuse, some sexual innuendo and dialogue, along with infrequent profanity (including one sexual expletive). While suicide is front and center in the plot, there are no portrayals of self-harm on screen.
Viewers may be a little distracted by Ben Platt (and his make-up) because the actor, in his late twenties, doesn’t really look like a high school senior. Kaitlyn Dever, who plays his love interest, is only a couple years younger than Platt, yet she fits the age more believably.
Still, the story deserves credit for casting its sights beyond Evan’s plight, by exploring some of the challenges faced by other characters who are also dealing with issues of mental health, grief, and abandonment, as well as feelings of inadequacy and failure. While the challenges of the living may overshadow those of the dead (meaning the plight of Connor’s character is often forgotten), that focus mirrors the intended message of the movie which is really about noticing those around us who are struggling and vowing to be there for them.
A reminder that each of us carries, or has carried, an unwanted burden, Dear Evan Hansen succeeds at opening a much-needed conversation about a sensitive subject. And its memorable songs have the potential to continue to provide emotional support long after the credits roll.Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Starring Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg. Running time: 137 minutes. Theatrical release September 24, 2021. Updated February 24, 2022
Watch the trailer for Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen
Rating & Content Info
Why is Dear Evan Hansen rated PG-13? Dear Evan Hansen is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material involving suicide, brief strong language and some suggestive reference
Violence: Suicide and self-harm are major themes in this film – they are talked about, but not shown. People discuss a character who takes his own life. A character is teased, marginalized, bullied, yelled at and pushed to the ground. Other characters experience depression, anxiety, loneliness and isolation. Characters deal with the positive and negative effects of information shared on social media. Family members engage in arguments, angry outbursts and threats. A character tells lies. An angry character drives a vehicle recklessly. Death, grief and abandonment are mentioned.
Sexual Content: References are made about homosexual relationships, including some sexual dialogue. Inappropriate sexual feelings between siblings are alluded to. Inferences are made about characters being gay. Broken marriages are mentioned, and an illusion is made to infidelity. Male high school students are seen shirtless in a locker room. An anxious person vomits. Couples hug and kiss. A male teenager is flustered about the possible motivations of a female peer when she asks to see his bedroom.
Profanity: One use of a sexual expletive and four scatological curses. Infrequent use of mild profanity and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Mental illness plays a large role in this movie. Characters discuss taking prescription drugs and are seen taking pills. Illegal drug use and substance abuse are mentioned – addictions are implied. Wine is drunk with meals.
Page last updated February 24, 2022
Dear Evan Hansen Parents' Guide
At the beginning of this film, Evan Hansen is wearing a cast. Why is it easy to see broken bones, but more difficult to notice broken souls? Would you have any trouble talking about or showing sympathy for a physical injury? Why is it often more difficult to do the same for things like mental illness, thoughts of self-harm or grief from the loss of someone by suicide?
This movie attempts to explores issues around mental illness, suicide and self-harm. Do you feel it sheds light on some of these concerns? Did you learn anything that may be helpful for you, or someone else you know who might be dealing with these things? Did you feel that using music to tell this story helped or hindered its message?
What kinds of struggles are other characters wrestling with? Why do some of them carry their challenges publicly, while others carry them privately? How do you deal with your problems? How can you become more aware of the burdens that are weighing down those around you?
In Evan’s lie, he paints a picture where there is always someone to pick you up when you fall. What could you do to make that fantasy more of a reality for those who are not feeling seen or heard?