Dear Evan Hansen

image for Dear Evan Hansen

Short takes

Not suitable under 14; parental guidance to 15 (themes, suicide references, coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Dear Evan Hansen
  • a review of Dear Evan Hansen completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 12 December 2021.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 14 Not suitable due to themes, suicide references and coarse language.
Children aged 14–15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes, suicide references and coarse language.
Children over the age of 15 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Dear Evan Hansen
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, suicide references, coarse language
Length: 137 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Overpowered by feelings of worthlessness and riddled with anxiety, Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) stands at the window looking out at a world he longs to be a part of but doesn’t feel he belongs in. Evan takes his meds and follows the advice of his therapist, writing a letter to himself, but his classmate Connor (Colton Ryan), who is dealing with his own demons, takes the letter from him and disappears. Evan is beside himself with worry, waiting for the moment when it is published online and there is ridicule and backlash. Instead, Connor’s mum (Amy Adams) gives the letter back to Evan, thinking these were the last words her son wrote before taking his own life. When she invites Evan to have dinner with her husband (Danny Pino) and Conner’s sister Zoe (Kaitlin Dever), Evan is determined to tell her the truth. Blindsided by the depth of their grief and despair, Evan can’t bear to destroy the happiness his letter seems to have brought them and instead 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 his family had only ever hoped that Connor would have. Evan’s made up recollections help Connor’s family keep his memory alive and 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. Evan can hardly believe how his life has changed: he is popular, admired and appreciated; when once he was invisible people now seek him out and wave to him in the hall; he and Zoe appear to be falling in love; and The Connor Project is well on its way to reaching the financial target to restore an orchard that Connor loved. Everything seems perfect and then the original letter Evan wrote to himself is leaked online and the backlash becomes unimaginable. Broken and devastated, Evan faces the impossible. He holds on, he keeps going and despite his mistakes and difficulties he continues to inspire others, reminding them that even in the shadows no one is truly alone.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Suicide; Family breakdown; The power of social media; Abandonment of a child; Grief; Battling mental illness, depression and anxiety.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • 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 tells about how Connor violently pounded on her door and threatened to kill her for no reason.
  • An anecdote is shared of how Connor once threw a printer at a teacher.
  • Zoe drives recklessly, speeding dangerously and taking her hands off the wheel. She screeches to a halt in another lane just as a light turns red but initially, crying uncontrollably, it looks like she is going to run it.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

  • Nothing further noted.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Evan’s mom finally talks to him about what happened the day that his dad walked out of their lives without looking back and how Evan wondered if his mom was going to abandon him too. While not scary, the scene is very emotional and sad and may distress some young viewers.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • The above-mentioned scene may distress children in this age group.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Anxiety medications Lexapro and Zoloft are mentioned by name.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • 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 infers that Evan’s relationship with Connor is gay.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • There is a locker room scene where boys are shirtless.
  • Evan and Zoe kiss.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Evan takes lots of pills for his anxiety and other disorders.
  • A classmate talks about the pills she takes for depression and anxiety as well.
  • There are song lyrics that reference smoking crack, pot and general drugs.
  • Connor’s parents drink wine with Evan’s mom.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Shit, bat shit and holy shit.
  • Oh damn!
  • No fucking way!

In a nutshell

Dear Evan Hansen is a stage to screen adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical drama. With a powerful cast, inspirational performances and timely messages that are important for us all to remember, this is a story that will touch your heart. Due largely to the themes it contains, this is not a family film but rather one that is best suited to older teens, mature audiences and fans of musical theatre.

The main messages from this movie are to hold on and keep going; that even if you are broken you are worthwhile; that even if you are lost you will be found; that we need to look out for each other; we need to be kind; and that, no matter what, we are never alone.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Friendship
  • Perseverance
  • Courage.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • The perils of posting on social media and that how once something is ‘out there’ you can never take it back.
  • Hiding your true feelings and letting them build inside.
  • Not asking for help when you need it.
  • Taking your own life.
  • Abandoning your child and the lasting affects this trauma could have.
  • Lying to others, even if initially it was done out of kindness.