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Dear Evan Hansen


Stars: Ben Platt, Kaitlyn Dever, Julianne Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Amy Adams, Colton Ryan, Danny Pino

Director: Stephen Chbosky

It's not difficult to see why this Broadway musical, which arrives on the screen shorn of three of its numbers, has already attracted such contrasting opinions in the States. One moment it plays hob with our emotions, the next it's so enervating that a quick snooze is almost too much of a temptation.

After a great opening musical scene, the film immediately slows to a crawl.

With his arm in plaster following a fall from a tree, nerdy Evan (Platt, who played the role on stage) feels even more isolated than before. His divorcee mom (Moore), a nurse, is hardly ever home, and he has no friends at high school, where he's in his final year.

On pills for depression, he has a hopeless crush on Zoe (Dever), whose psycho brother Connor (Ryan) Evan encounters when the latter jokingly scrawls his name on the plaster cast. A note penned by Evan to himself is found in Connor's possession after he tops himself, and things begin to escalate rapidly from then on.

Evan finds himself increasingly forced into naming Connor as his friend, and is soon inventing a whole relationship with the troubled youth he hardly knew, kindling a friendship with Zoe, and being treated like a son by her parents (Adams, Pino).

When an emotional if highly imaginative tribute by Evan on behalf of his 'buddy' at a school assembly goes viral, the school do-gooder (Stenberg) who herself has unseen problems, seizes the opportunity to start the 'Connor project', raising funds for the renewal of an orchard where the dead youth played as a boy.

It takes an enormous script contrivance for the whole deception to come crashing down about Evan's ears.

Platt, although patently too old for the role, has a beautiful singing voice, and Stenberg's tonsils aren't bad either; the songs themselves are haunting at first, and always have something to say, but the style of them - half-spoken with soaring notes in between - does tend to grate a bit after a while.

David Quinlan

USA 2021. UK Distributor: Universal . Colour by Company 3.
136 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 19 Oct 2021