Overpowered by feelings of worthlessness and riddled with anxiety, Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) stands at the window looking at a world he longs to be a part of but doesn’t feel he belongs in.
Evan takes his medicines and follows the advice of his therapist to write a letter to himself. His classmate Connor (Colton Ryan), who is dealing with his own challenges, takes the letter from him and disappears. Evan is beside himself with worry, waiting for the moment it’s published online and he becomes the target of ridicule and backlash. Instead, Connor takes his own life. Connor’s mother (Amy Adams) gives the letter back to Evan, thinking these were the last words her son wrote.
Connor’s mother invites Evan to have dinner with her husband (Danny Pino) and Connor’s sister, Zoe (Kaitlin Dever). Evan is determined to tell the family the truth about the letter. But he can’t bring himself to destroy the happiness his letter seems to have brought them in their grief and despair. Instead, he weaves them a story of hope. He tells them about a wonderful day he shared with Connor – the kind of day he always imagined having with a friend and the kind of day Connor’s family had wished for their child.
Evan’s made-up recollections help Connor’s family keep his memory alive. When Evan speaks at Connor’s memorial, his words go viral. Soon projects are launched in Connor’s name, students come together, and Connor’s family begins to heal, bolstered by the love and support that seems to surround their son. For his part, Evan can hardly believe how his life has changed. He is popular, admired and appreciated. Where once he was invisible, he’s now sought out. People wave to him in the hall. He and Zoe appear to be falling in love. And The Connor Project is on its way to reaching its financial target and restoring an orchard that Connor loved.
Everything seems perfect until the original letter Evan wrote to himself is leaked online. The backlash is unimaginable. Broken and devastated, Evan faces the impossible. He holds on, he keeps going and he continues to inspire others, despite his mistakes and difficulties. He reminds people that even in the shadows, no-one is truly alone.
Suicide; family breakdown; the power of social media; abandonment of a child; grief; battling mental illness, depression and anxiety
Dear Evan Hansen has some violence. For example:
- Students verbally harass and bully Connor.
- Connor shoves Evan to the ground and screams in his face.
- Evan falls out of a tree and breaks his arm. He later reveals that he let go in an attempt to end his life.
- Zoe describes how Connor violently pounded on her door and threatened to kill her for no reason.
- There’s an anecdote about how Connor once threw a printer at a teacher.
- Zoe drives recklessly. She speeds dangerously and takes her hands off the wheel while crying uncontrollably. A light is just about to turn red. It looks like Zoe is going to go through it, but she screeches to a halt just in time.
Dear Evan Hansen has some sexual references. For example:
- A character jokes about Evan’s therapy letters to himself being ‘sex letters’.
- There are song lyrics that talk about ‘getting hard’, ‘boning’ and rubbing nipples.
- A classmate repeatedly implies that Evan was in a gay relationship with Connor.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Dear Evan Hansen shows some use of substances. For example:
- Evan takes many pills for his anxiety and other disorders.
- A classmate talks about the pills she takes for depression and anxiety.
- There are song lyrics that refer to smoking crack and pot and using drugs generally.
- Connor’s parents drink wine with Evan’s mother.
Nudity and sexual activity
Dear Evan Hansen has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- A locker room scene shows boys without their shirts on.
- Evan and Zoe kiss.
The following products are displayed or used in Dear Evan Hansen: the anxiety medications Lexapro and Zoloft.
Dear Evan Hansen has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Dear Evan Hansen is a movie adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical drama of the same name. With a powerful cast, inspirational performances, and timely and important messages, this story will touch your heart. But because of its themes, this isn’t a family movie. Rather, it’s best suited to older teenagers, mature audiences and musical theatre fans.
These are the main messages from Dear Evan Hansen:
- Hold on and keep going.
- Even if you’re struggling, you’re worthwhile.
- Even if you’re lost, you’ll be found.
- We need to look out for each other.
- We need to be kind.
- No matter what, we are never alone.
Values in Dear Evan Hansen that you could reinforce with your children include empathy, compassion, friendship, perseverance and courage.
Dear Evan Hansen could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of things like:
- posting on social media and how once something is online, you can’t take it back
- hiding your true feelings and letting them build up
- not asking for help when you need it
- abandoning your child and the lasting affects this trauma might have
- lying to others, even if it’s initially done out of kindness.
Dear Evan Hansen might also prompt a conversation about suicide. If your child tells you they want to hurt themselves or they want to die, seek professional help. Call Lifeline on 131 114 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or encourage your child to call. If your child is willing to go, take them to the emergency department at your nearest hospital.