CW: This article discusses suicide and mental health.
I’m a sucker for a high school movie. I’m an even bigger sucker for a high school movie when it can help you reflect on your own life, choices and what you’re going through right in that present moment.
Dear Evan Hansen (the bonafide Broadway smash-turned-motion picture shebang) pretty much encompasses that vibe to a tee. The story revolves around Evan Hansen, a high school senior who suffers from social anxiety, whose life is completely transformed when his therapy homework unexpectedly connects him with the family grieving the suicide of their son.
Oh, and did I mention it’s a musical? Showtunes are scientifically proven to make everything at least 99999% more emotional and epic, which is exactly what the heartstring-tugging soundtrack does here.
The film naturally dives into a few pretty heavy themes — including the many impacts of suicide and the widespread reality of mental illness amongst high school students. But, while they can be confronting topics to discuss, the film deals with each in a really open, honest and touching way.
It’s even more comforting considering the tough few years we’ve been through — it’s more important than ever to have real conversations and learn as much about these things as possible.
With that in mind, here are some of the most relevant things we learnt from watching the flick (which you can suss for yourself in cinemas from December 9th).
We’ve all got one huge thing in common
One of the most salient messages within the film is that as humans, we’ve all got one big, glaring thing in common — we want to connect. We yearn for friendship, and we all want to be understood. If that’s all we want inherently, then what’s the barrier stopping us from getting along? Small talk can be daunting, but it’s worth a shot to break the ice.
In Dear Evan Hansen, some of the best things happen due to unlikely pairings coming together. It’s a simple message, but one we can tend to forget as we grow up. Reaching out to those who seem to sit on the periphery of your usual social circles almost always ends well. As they say, opposites attract and you could meet your new bestie (Dear Evan Hansen is proof of this BTW).
Tragedy can bring us together
The movie really delves into just how far-reaching the impacts of suicide can be. It portrays a family on the brink of despair in the aftermath of it, a school in denial at the passing of a student and the remorse of those who could’ve done more to help.
While sad, it also showcases how incredible it is when people band together to help each other in times of need. We’ve all witnessed this over the last two years. Our collective experience going through the pandemic has been tough to say the least. However, it has resulted in a lot more open and honest conversations around everything from mental health, to work/life balance, which is ultimately a good thing.
Pain (obviously) sucks, but it can lead us to be more vulnerable and empathetic of others.
Social media can be powerful as heck
We probably don’t need to shout this from the rooftops again (because you’ve absolutely heard it before), but we will. The misuse of social media continues to cause problems, and whether you’re still in school or have entered the workforce, it can screw things up.
In a pretty pivotal scene in the movie, we’re reminded of the power social media has to frame people’s suffering and allow strangers to judge personal issues. It’s uncomfortable to watch happen, but it’s a sage reminder to think twice about your actions online and how others might perceive them.
On the flip side to this, the movie also sheds a light on the epic side of social media. Its ability to spread positive information and get people rallying around a good cause is on display front and centre throughout the film — which is a great reminder if you’re getting a little cynical with your feed.
The people who seem fine might be struggling the most
We’ve all put on a brave face at one point or another. But sometimes, that fake smile becomes permanent and can mask what we’re really going through. Being authentic and showcasing that it’s okay not to cope sometimes is integral to normalising our mental health struggles. Overall, it’s a powerful reminder that help is available and leaning on the people in your life you care for most is a surefire way to get through times of trouble — even when things seem bleakest.
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13 11 14Image: Universal Pictures / Dear Evan Hansen