Taylor Swift has been painting beautiful scenes in our imaginations through her lyrics for years now but recently, on the 12th of November, she finally showed us what she wants us to see for one of her biggest songs, All too Well. The short film was entitled after the song, All Too Well, starred Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink.
All Too Well was originally a 10-minute song that was whittled down to 5 minutes back when it was originally released in 2012. We now have the privilege to listen to the original, full version of the song along with a beautiful musical short film that tells us about the situations that she talked about in the lyrics of the song.
There are a couple of technicalities that we usually investigate when it comes to reviewing a film but the most striking in this short film would be the acting, cinematography, scoring, and screenplay. Let us start with the most striking parts: the cinematography and the acting.
I want to shake Taylor’s and the camera crew’s hands for the wonderful job they have done to make us feel like we were part of the story. Another thing that the cinematography did perfectly was capturing enough of the scenes wherein we were given just the right amount of the story we needed to know of at that point. Rina Yang did an amazing job as the cinematographer of the short film. Two good examples of this are letting us experience what it was like “walking into” the sister’s place and seeing the infamous scarf. Another wonderful transitory and narrative scene would be the aerial view of Sadie’s character mourning the breakup the whole day which was shown through a change of lighting within the same scene. Overall, we were taken on the journey with them which I think is what all the fans wanted the most.
The casting was what made the short film spectacular in my opinion. Not only did Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink nail their roles as Him and Her, but they also embodied the dynamic they were supposed to have perfectly. On a physical level, their contrast in terms of how old they look regardless of their actual ages communicated the discomfort we were all supposed to feel about their chemistry. As we all know, All Too Well is a love story between two people who are significantly far apart in age, though Sadie is 19, the youth in her features made it hard to view her as mature enough for Him. The casting of Dylan O’Brien as Him, as the terrible boyfriend, I believe, was also just as brilliant, the conflict we are posed with as fans who love him but hate Him is exactly what someone feels when they are in love with someone but no longer completely in love with the relationship they have. There were two iconic scenes in the short story that truly showed their excellence as actors; the painful kitchen scene, wherein their delivery of venomous dialogue had us all cringe and break, as this was also the scene that really highlighted Him as the villain, we all didn’t want to believe him to be. Coming up second would be the painfully relatable scene of Sadie clutching her chest as she cried her soul out on her bed, her phone ringing as she reluctantly rejects the call from Him. As actors, they had us believe in their love, hope for their love, and feel how they broke when they finally fell apart.
In terms of screenplay and scoring, as predictable as it was since we all knew it would chronicle the progression of a doomed love story of a couple through the song All Too Well, the ten-minute version it still effectively takes us through all the beautifully mundane, gut-wrenchingly painful and the powerful in-betweens of what they were and what they became. The screenplay was simple, it primes us with a beautiful quote by Pablo Neruda, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long”, after which, we are regaled to a seven-part story that starts with “An Upstate Escape” wherein we could see the start of their budding romance and all throughout the parts in between we are taken back and forth between how they were currently falling apart but the beauty their love once held at different points of the relationship. I think this style of going back and forth did an amazing job on keeping us on the side of hoping instead of outright not supporting the relationship, the way it would cut to a beautiful moment after a blatantly heartbreaking one tricked us when it comes to keeping us on our toes. In the most minimalistic sense, I think it encapsulated what she meant when she says she remembers it all too well. During the epilogue, they pull a “La-La Land” on us as the male character watches Taylor, as she plays the grown-up Her, do a book reading of their story which is just a beautifully cruel way to end a beautifully cruel romance. The bittersweet ending of this sombre tale reminds us that the other person might have gone through the same revelations as well, showing us that not all relationships are black and white, and that despite him being a “bad boyfriend” in her eyes, he was also being hurt in the relationship, and not being the only one hurting the relationship.
Overall, it was a spectacular film in the sense that though we essentially have had an idea of this story for years it was still presented in a way none of us could have fathomed. It was creatively and personally satisfying to see a story we fans have been following for years unfold itself to us on screen.