‘All Too Well: The Short Film’: ‘I might be OK, but I’m not fine at all’
Maggie Clark | Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Taylor Swift rarely ceases to surprise or amaze me. I have been an avid “Swiftie” since 2012, yet my expectations of her artistry has been exceeded with every song, music video or album release since then. The Friday release of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” was no different. Not only was I blown away by the album itself, but I was particularly stunned by the 10-minute version of what was arguably already one of her best songs: “All Too Well.” Even though the original song is heartbreaking, I would consider this new, longer version to be (to quote Taylor ) “maiming.”
Devastating lyrics such as, “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath,” made my jaw drop upon hearing them, causing me to ‘unreasonably’ despise a certain actor about whom the song is allegedly written. As if the song itself was not enough to leave me like a “crumpled up piece of paper,” there is also a 13-minute long short film which makes the song all the more impactful. “All Too Well: The Short Film” is directed by Taylor Swift and stars Sadie Sink, Dylan O’Brien and Taylor Swift (with one of the producers being Notre Dame alum, Austin Swift). Like the song itself, the short film is absolutely brilliant and is only a testament to the artistic genius that is Taylor Swift.
“All Too Well: The Short Film” details the story of the relationship between “Him,” played by Dylan O’Brien, and “Her,” played by Sadie Sink. It follows the epic of “All Too Well,” the song, pretty faithfully. Therefore, it is absolutely gut-wrenching. I do not want to spoil too much of the film since I believe you should watch it no matter your opinion on Taylor Swift, but I think the ending is especially wonderful. In addition to the story and this ending, the cinematography of the short film is one of the most beautiful parts of it. Shot on 35mm film, the picturesque scenes have a vintage, home video-like quality, giving viewers a feeling of strange familiarity. The film transitions from fall settings at the beginning to winter settings at the end, following the sequence of the song and the progression of the relationship.
One of the most prominent aspects of the relationship described in the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” is an age gap between Taylor and the person who she is singing about. This is cleverly explored in the film, with an emphasis on “Her” innocence, portrayed not only in her character, but also in an “old scarf from that very first week,” and on the manipulative, almost-disconnected nature of “Him.”
The casting of the film helps to demonstrate these aspects of character, as Sadie Sink is 19 years old — similar to the age of Swift when she wrote the song — while Dylan O’Brien is 30. While the two actors have strong on-screen chemistry, it is almost jarring seeing the two so “in love” considering their age gap. This should not be taken as criticism, but rather as a point of praise, as this perfectly demonstrates the heartbreak Swift expresses in the song. Overall, both Sink and O’Brien offer fantastic performances, causing me to sympathize even more with Swift and (somehow) even less with that certain actor already mentioned.
All in all, “All Too Well: The Short Film” epitomizes not only “All Too Well” as a song, but also as a representation of the quality and artistry of Taylor Swift. Thus, this beautiful portrayal of “the love affair” is bound to “maim you too.”