Dear Evan Hansen (spoiler free review)

Dear Evan Hansen is beautifully written musical about a boy’s struggle with his mental health. Mental health is presented very truthfully, warts and all. It never romanticises anything and it shows how mental illness can be ugly. 

The musical follows Evan Hansen, a lonely boy who just wants to be known. He eventually gets the attention he wanted when a fellow student Connor Murphy kills himself. Connor is found with a letter that Evan wrote to himself (under his mums persistence) and his family assume the two were friends. Evan fabricates a friendship due to his anxiety which prevents him from saying the harsh truth and traps him in the lie. 
The story focuses on the want to be seen and to be remembered. Each character struggles with these themes and the you really feel for them all. Evan and Connor on the surface seem to be very different but the musical teaches us that people still have the same struggles. This theme makes the audience think that it very easily could have been who Evan who killed himself. The musical therefore shows that each life is precious and individual. 

The musical has fantastic songs that show the emotions of each of the characters as they go through their struggles each one in very relatable in different ways except for Sincerely me which is hilarious with dark undertones. The heart and humour shown in this song continues throughout the musical and highlights the darkness of mental illness. 

Just like it’s main character the musical also has some flaws but the musical is ultimately fantastically moving and is important for everyone to watch. You cannot watch Dear Evan Hansen (or even listen to its soundtrack) without learning a lot about both life and yourself. 

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The Graduate: film or book? 

There is no denying that the Graduate is a wonderful story wether you consume it in its original book form or its film. The story doesn’t change much in the transition from book to film but there are still significant stories in the idiosyncrasies and how the story is presented. 
The obvious differences are in the genres itself. The film makes use of its medium through the power of music. Simon and Garfunkel have a positive influence on the film and their sounds leave a lasting impression in the audience. The words “hello darkness my old friend” completely sum up Benjamin’s feelings as he is in an depressed like state. Whereas the book utilises its words. The whole book is written in simple language in a very literal way. This writing style symbolises Bens lack of drive and his emotionless state. 

However, in both mediums it is the story of Benjamin Braddock, a college graduate with no idea what the hell he wants to do. He is completely lost in life and at the beginning he seems to want to stay in this state of unknown. In the film it shows Bens lack of emotion through shots of him floating in water. The image of him floating is a metaphor for how he is floating though life, letting things pass him as he stays unmoving. The book doesn’t use any symbolism to show his emotional state. The book shows his funk through dialogue. Ben constantly complains about everything but takes little action, this shows his lack of drive in a clear way. 

In my opinion one of the main differences in the texts is in the presentation of the main characters. Mrs Robinson is an obviously iconic character due to her manipulation of Ben and how she shows the hardships of being a woman in the 1960s. In the film she is a seductress, this is shown through her leopard print dress and that iconic shot of her framing Ben with her dress. In contrast in the book her seduction of Ben is far less consensual, Ben doesn’t want to sleep with her and she manipulates him using toxic masculinity. Both interpretations are equally interesting but make the audience/reader see the character and the story in a different way. In the book she is much more a villain and in the film she is seen more sympathetically. In the book Ben appears much more whiny and irritating. He completely dictates his relationship with Elaine, being demanding and borderline abusive. In the film he is however more sympathetic due to the time the audience spends with him without dialogue and the acting of Dustin Hoffman. Elaine’s actions make much more sense in the book as more time is spend with her in the film. You understand that it isn’t particularity Ben she wants to run away with its the expectations put upon her that she wants to escape from. In the film she seems to be nothing more than a plot device to create tension and show the desire to act by Ben.  

The film is ultimately the story of victims of society who have no idea what the right thing to do is and are desperate for release. Whereas the book is about victims of society who have now become villains due to society and are causing themselves their own pain.