‘All Too Well: The Short Film’ review

Yes, this love affair definitely maimed us - AND WE LOVED IT.

Taylor Swift’s All Too Well: The Short Film premiered on Nov. 12, 2021

(We couldn’t resist using the photo of Taylor Swift singing this song on SNL with the short film playing behind because it was was AMAZING! You can watch the full clip HERE.) 

Grab your tissues because it’s time to really dive into the stunning and heartbreaking short film for Taylor Swift‘s 10 minute version of “All Too Well” from Red (Taylor’s Version), which was released November 12, 2021. The song was always beloved by fans, not just for it’s melody or lyrics, but for the undeniable raw emotion behind the song. Not only did the 10 minute version give us all of that, but it painted a bigger picture of the pain and angst that so many of us have connected to when listening to the original version. 

With this short film, that she wrote, directed and starred in, Taylor Swift developed the story even further and did with soul-crushing brilliance. At the start, Sadie Sink portrays Her, Dylan O’Brien plays Him and (of course) the infamous red scarf is there to torment us all.

We know that the scarf has been suggested to mean many things, but in this video it seems to be an actual scarf (as we see Him wearing it at the end). It also seems to symbolize her innocence and her youthful sparkle that fades as the film goes on, as well as the piece of Her that she will never get back.  

The title cards set the scene as the film progresses, and we then realize that they are chapter titles in the book titled All To Well, written by Her thirteen years later (played by Taylor Swift at the end of the film). The acting, the song, the story all work together to deliver an absolute piece of art.

Let’s dive in to each section and break it all down. 

An Upstate Escape 

To start, they are a sweet couple and seem to be totally in love, but as we know, this love will not last. And even though we know that the heartbreak is forthcoming, it’s hard not to be swept up in the romance of it all. The leaves, his hand in her hair, the passionate kiss, the longing stares – at this point we are just as smitten as Her because Dylan O’Brien takes about 0.5 seconds getting us ALL to fall madly in love with Him. #Swoon

The First Crack in the Glass 

At a dinner party we see a much different vibe from Her. Her wild curls are straightened, she is looking down, barely a smile, whereas her fella is the life of the party and gives her no attention. And it can be argued that maybe he just didn’t want to hold hands at the dinner party – but in contrast to the previous scene where he is solely focused on Her, we can feel the sting of it right along with Her. 

In the next scene, we see Him tossing the keys on the ground and yelling on the phone. Sadie Sink’s character is worried and confused as she looks back at this once gentle man losing his damn mind in the woods. She is alone in the woods with him as he is raging out, which makes her character seem even more vulnerable. It’s a gentle reminder that even though they were happy a few moments ago, they are not symbolically out of the woods yet either. 

The dinner party is now over, and Dylan O’Brien’s character gives a masterclass in gaslighting and invalidates all of Her feelings. (Here is more info about gaslighting.) Sadie Sink’s character gets angry and frustrated. You can see her questioning and doubting herself, but she is quick to let it go when DOB’s character apologizes and gets all cute. Ugh, been there. 

Are You Real?

This part of the short film is the fairy tale. It’s the dancing, the kissing, the fun, the intimate moments that make us all swoon. (And let’s just take a moment to appreciate the female gaze direction here from Taylor. Hands. It’s all about the hands, people.)

This section is when we see what Sadie Sink’s character was holding onto. This was the “rare” part she remembers. We see the tender moments that made it so hard for her to let go and it’s these sweet, quiet moments that almost makes us forget about the kitchen fight – almost.

The lighting and Taylor’s direction really, really shine in this section, particularly in the refrigerator dancing scene with the contrast of his blue to her yellow/orange. Orange and blue are considered opposite colors making it a subtle way to remind us of their differences, even though they are twirling and laughing. We love how Taylor Swift uses color to expand on the stories she tells. LOVE. IT.

The Breaking Point

Here is when our worried hearts all collectively break. After the kisses, laughs and dances of the previous chapter, they begin to argue and he appears to break up with Her. Now, if you didn’t connect/ugly cry during the scene of Sadie Sink’s character sobbing in her bed and clutching her chest because this relationship is giving her literal, physical pain, then we are not the same. 

We also see the moments of her at a party, feeling completely out of place and a flashback to DOB’s character charming her dad. DOB’s character was perfect until he wasn’t and it makes it impossible not to feel all of the turmoil and confusion right along with Her. Up until now, our romantic side wants this to all work out. We want Him to change and be a better man for Her, but when he doesn’t show up for her birthday party, we all know it’s over. 

And as the Swifties know, there are many songs on this album and in her catalog that expand on many of the moments detailed in this short film.  

The Reeling 

In this chapter, we see the realizations start to hit Her, not just that it’s over, but we see her process what she went through during this relationship. The lighting on her is dimmed and we see her reckoning, not just with the loss of Him, but with the loss of herself, as the lyrics suggest. It’s the shortest chapter of the short film, but it’s the one that really defines the emotion of the song. 

The Remembering 

This chapter is recap of the good times, and it seems to be more from the perspective of Him, possibly suggesting that he wanted to reconcile at some point post breakup because his memories didn’t include his anger and his outbursts, they were just of Her. And again, as lovers of love stories this is when we ALSO wish it could go back to the good times, but that’s not what this film is about it. It’s about remembering the bad parts that you maybe didn’t even see at the time, as well as the good. 

13 Years Gone 

Flash forward and it’s Taylor Swift herself playing the part of Her. She is an author and title of the book is the song title! Upon first watch, this is when it hits you that the title cards were actually chapters in this book and makes a re-watch even more fun. 

When we see Her reading the book, the camera then pans the women in the audience with tears in their eyes as Swift’s line “Just between us did the love affair maim you, all too well?” plays. This feels very intentional, as do most things with Swift and we think we know why.

One thing that fans all started to realize after Red (Taylor’s Version) came out was that so many relate to this story on a very deep level. Watching this moment in the short film is when it feels like that line isn’t for Him, it’s for the other women who went through a relationship similar to the one depicted in this short film, and even though her ex is there (wearing her scarf, of course), he’s just on the outside looking in. She is talking to the other women. 

She’s not processing it with Him. She is processing it right along side other women who also remember these feelings all too well.

And it’s f*cking brilliant. 

Bottom line, no matter what side of the scarf debate you are on (if you are reading this, we think we know), there is no denying that this song, this story and the shots of this video are stunning. Taylor Swift is one of, if not THE greatest storyteller of this generation. Dylan O’Brien and Sadie Sink are amazing and their chemistry and passion almost makes you want these two to work it all out in the end. Almost.

It’s perfect. 

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Meg Bonney

Meg is a TV obsessed writer based in the Midwest. She is also the author of the award winning YA-Fantasy novel, EVERLY and tends to be overly caffeinated. Find her on Twitter to chat about TV, books and Bellamy Blake's freckles.

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