But what if everybody's secret is they have that secret side
And to know they're somehow not alone
Well, that's all they're hoping for
What if they didn't have to stay... anonymous anymore? ♫
Dear Evan Hansen is a musical drama film based on Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's Broadway musical of the same name. It was directed by Stephen Chbosky of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Wonder fame, from a screenplay by Steven Levenson (Who wrote the book for the original musical). It was released on September 24th, 2021.
Ben Platt reprises his role from the show's original Broadway cast as Evan Hansen, a socially anxious teen whose life is lonely at best. His mother (Julianne Moore) is a workaholic, he only has one family friend (Nik Dodani) and he lacks courage to talk to the girl he loves (Kaitlyn Dever). When an emotionally volatile student, Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), takes his own life, a mix-up involving Evan's self-improvement letter leads his parents (Amy Adams and Danny Pino) to believe Evan knew him as a dear friend. Adopting this story, Evan makes up new discoveries for Connor's family and joins a remembrance program run by an enthusiastic activist (Amandla Stenberg). But even if these events seemingly make him a better person, Evan will find out that his control over the lies cannot be contained forever.
Dear Evan Hansen contains examples of:
- Adaptational Diversity: The adaptation still centers around white characters, but race lifts two characters (Larry and Jared, who are now Latino and South Asian) and gives Alana (who is usually played by black actresses thanks to Original Cast Precedent) an expanded role, including an explicit admittance that she, like Evan, suffers from mental illness. In addition, Jared is now explicitly into men rather than ambiguously so.
- Adaptation Expansion: In the original musical, Heidi's and Evan's reconciliation jumps forward one year later, where Zoe reveals to Evan that her family didn't reveal the truth, and forgives him. Here, we see Evanís attempts to make amends. He confesses his lie online and tells the public to blame him, instead of Connor's family. Then, he starts to read Connor's top ten favorite books and makes contact with anyone who knew Connor, so that he can learn more about him. After a string of failures, a guy in Connor's rehab group sends him a video of Connor singing a song about his repeated attempts at recovery. With this file, Evan mails it to Connor's family, Jared and Alana, finally letting them know who Connor really was. Then, it leads to the orchard scene.
- Almost Kiss: As Evan and Zoe lean in closer for a kiss, they're interrupted by Cynthia and Larry arriving home from the supermarket.
- Arc Symbol: Corridors. Main characters walk down these while surrounded by other people, to showcase whether society is truly in touch with them.
- Bittersweet Ending: Evan decides to confess his lie, which severs his relationships with the Murphy family, Alana and the entire high school. But he still has Jared, makes amends with his mother and learns more about the real Connor. It's summed up by his last lines, where he sings about getting better, step by step, despite his social anxiety.
- Bungled Suicide: This is how Evan really broke his arm. And unlike the musical, we actually see the attempt.
- Celebrity Paradox: Possibly doubling as an Actor Allusion; "Sincerely, Me" ends with Evan and Connor at an arcade where the arcade game adaptation of The Lost World: Jurassic Park is visible in the background. Julianne Moore (who plays Heidi Hansen) starred in that film as Sarah Harding.
- Driven to Suicide: Connor's suicide is what kicks off the main events of the story. And at the end of the movie, it's also revealed that Evan was driven to attempt it before the events of the film, but he survived.
- Eating Lunch Alone: A scene at the beginning shows Evan having lunch at a solitary cafeteria table, while watching other groups chatting with each other.
- Feedback Rule: When Evan starts to talk at a school ceremony honoring Connor, the microphone gives loud feedback.
- Foreshadowing: The music when Evan finally has his cast removed is actually an instrumental rendition of "Words Fail". It hints at two things: the downfall of Evan's lie and the revelation that his broken arm was from a Bungled Suicide.
- Forged Message: Evan has his friend Jared make up and backdate e-mails to make it seem that Connor wrote them to him.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Evan and Alana are talking in the library, the book "Turtles All the Way Down" by John Green can be seen behind Evan, which deals with mental illness.
- Friendship Denial: An inversion of this trope is the central point of the story.
- Good-Times Montage: As Zoe and Evan sing "Only Us", it cuts to four happier moments taking place afterwards, where they go to the prom, a ferris wheel, a carousel and a roller-coaster as a couple.
- Honesty Aesop: Evan learns at the end of the film that maybe it's a bad idea to use someone's suicide for personal gain and to lie to a grieving family about being friends with the person in question.
- Inelegant Blubbering: "Words Fail". Let's just say that Evan cries so much in this song, that some of the lyrics go off-key with the music!
- Jerkass: In the scenes where Connor is alive, as well as when Zoe recalls some of his past actions, Connor is portrayed as a mentally ill bully who'll scream at you or even assault you just because you did something that may have inconvenienced him.
- Maintain the Lie: Evan asks for Jared's help to convince everyone that he and Connor were friends.
- Movie Bonus Song: The film has two of these.
- "The Anonymous Ones" is sung by Alana at two points in the movie. Firstly, it's when she reveals to Evan that she's a Stepford Smiler. The second instance occurs when she grapples with the prospect of using Evan's self-improvement letter to raise more money for the Connor Project apple orchard fundraiser.
- "A Little Closer" appears at the end of the movie, when Evan emails someone who knew Connor in rehab and receives a recording of Connor singing and playing the guitar. Then, it's briefly reprised as the last lines of the movie by Evan.
- My God, What Have I Done?: After Alana uploads what she thinks is Connor's suicide note online, she is horrified at the increasingly volatile responses by social media. When she calls Evan later on, she tells him that she deleted the post as soon as this happened.
- Mythology Gag: While "Anybody Have A Map?" and "Good for You" are not in the film as fully-fledged numbers, they're played by the school band during the pep rally at the start of the film.
- "Not So Different" Remark: A moment unique to the film courtesy of Alana's expanded role. When she reaches out to Evan about Connor, Evan says they couldn't be more different — she's an accomplished Extracurricular Enthusiast, while he's a nobody with anxiety. She then reveals that she's on medication, and Evan replies with his own prescription; this moment of bonding is what makes him agree to start the Connor Project with her.
- Once More, with Clarity:
- The first scene after the opening number is the school pep rally, showing Alana as the peppy, energetic, always on top of her game Student Council President. During "The Anonymous Ones", we see the entire sequence from Alana's point of view, not Evan's. She is revealed to struggle with depression, it's just that she's good at hiding it.
- Evan's breaking of his arm is shown in jumbled flashbacks at the start of the movie. It consists of him running across a bridge, finding a tree, grabbing a thin branch and then the fall. This leads us to believe that he fell from the tree because that branch came loose. Later on, more altered flashbacks are seen when Evan sings "For Forever" to Larry, Cynthia and Zoe. The new additions include Evan's smile as he's running across the bridge, him standing between two tree limbs and Connor's arrival to pick up Evan after the fall. Eventually, the truth about his "fall" is revealed during the final stretch of "Words Fail". Evan was actually sad as he ran along the bridge, the thin branch didn't break as he climbed higher, and we see more of Evan on the tree limbs. At that point, he takes one more look into the distance, before closing his eyes and letting himself fall off the tree.
- Rule of Symbolism:
- As Evan sings "For Forever" to tell Larry, Cynthia and Zoe a story of how him and Connor had a happy day at the apple orchard, he walks in front of the windows. They show a blue sky, representing the false hope he is giving to the Murphys, who knew almost nothing about their son. But when the time comes for Evan to confess his lie with "Words Fail", he stands at those same windows during nighttime. Now, he is essentially taking away this hope that he gave the Murphys before, since it has caused social media to turn on this family.
- After Connor's death, fresh flowers are placed around Connor's locker, lasting until "You Will Be Found". This simple act shows that people are keeping Connor's memory alive, thanks to Evan's actions. However, when Alana later reprises "The Anonymous Ones", she sees that those flowers have long wilted. Time has passed to the point where people are starting to forget about Connor.
- Shout-Out: Evan has posters for Ben Folds and Radiohead in his room. In addition, Connor's favorite books include Ready Player One, Persepolis, and several more.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: As Evan and Zoe sing "Only Us" to confirm the beginning of their relationship, it cuts to Heidi's, Jared's and Alana's disappointment as they realize that Evan is spending less time with them. During this montage, the lyric "The world falls away" is repeated several times. The two lovers are finding happiness within each other in a confusing world, but this peace is starting to cost Evan his friends and family.
- Stepford Smiler: Alana is revealed to be this rather early on. The Movie Bonus Song "The Anonymous Ones" is all about this trope.
- Suddenly Shouting: When Evan accidentally laughs at another student comparing Connor's hairstyle to a shooter, Connor notices this. It leads to this exchange.Connor: You think that's funny?
Evan: What? No. Not-not at all.
Connor: Then STOP LAUGHING!
- Troubled Fetal Position: After "Words Fail", Heidi comes home and finds a teary-eyed Evan like this.
- Villain Protagonist: Although not technically a villain, the stuff Evan does in the film is pretty disgusting.
- Wham Line: How Alana reveals that she struggles with depression.Alana: What do you take? Okay, I'll go first. I'm on Lexapro, 10 milligrams.
- Wham Shot: During "Words Fail", the truth about Evan's "accident" is revealed in flashbacks. After he has climbed on top of a tree, we see Evan calmly closing his eyes... and his right hand letting go of the branch next to him, resulting in his fall.
It feels a little closer. ♫