Dear Evan Hansen, a Broadway stage-hit that won six Tony awards, was adapted for the big screen by Stephen Chbosky. Ben Platt, who played Evan Hansen on stage, reprised his role in the film. He was joined by Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Nik Dodani, Kaitlyn Dever, Amandla Stenberg and Colton Ryans in the cast of Dear Evan Hansen.
Based on a book written by Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen is the story of a 17-year-old socially anxious teenager. The film dealt with some serious and perturbing themes of suicide, depression, loss, and grief. However, while the Broadway musical received wide critical acclaim, the cinematic adaptation failed to follow suit.
Mental health representation in 'Dear Evan Hansen'
The protagonist of Dear Evan Hansen is a socially anxious teenager, who has been advised by his therapist to write peppy letters to himself. Evan's life was marked by tragic loneliness and a desperation to be seen by others. His mother was a single mother who took up extra work to provide for Evan (Ben Platt) and herself, thus remaining mostly absent from his life. His father left when he was merely 7 years old.
Evan came across another troubled teenager, Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan), who was probably worse off than him. Their connection barely began to develop when Connor died by suicide. Dear Evan Hansen demonstrated how only after a life is lost do people realize the importance of mental health.
Only after Connor's death did Alana come forward with her own mental health issues and start The Connor Project to provide mental health services for others.
Various people posting on Connor's wall after his death about how they wished they could get to know him earlier displayed the sad state of mental health. The Murphy family's grief was another theme related to mental health representation in Dear Evan Hansen.
Did 'Dear Evan Hansen' appropriately address mental health issues?
Despite the various mental health issues mentioned in Dear Evan Hansen, the movie failed to explore them properly. The protagonist, also afflicted by mental illness, was portrayed as a devious and manipulative character, thus making him unsympathetic.
The issues are mostly downplayed and the spotlight remains on Evan's condition. Musical performances and social media virality, in the name of mental health, only paint a superficial and ingenious picture of mental health.
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However, the movie is a tear-jerker and has an emotionally overwrought plot, aimed at pulling the heartstrings of viewers. In the outset, Dear Evan Hansen may seem like an advocate for mental health, but the true story lies in the details.