K J’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Are you for real? I just feel like maybe I made you up”
Written and directed by Taylor Swift, the short film made for the newly released ten minute version of her song All Too Well follows a couple’s romance blooming before falling apart.
Originally released in 2012, Taylor Swift’s song All Too Well became and has remained one of my favorite songs of hers. The original version has often helped me through times where I had felt like I met a girl who would love me for who I was despite my flaws and insecurities, but I hadn’t listened to this song in years because I never had a need to. Recently, my ex-girlfriend Jasmine and I broke up and the way things turned out were so messy and from what I can tell, she seems to be completely fine and has already moved on with someone new but I’m still reeling from the loss of her. I bring this up because while I’m sure there are plenty of women who have felt understood by Taylor over the years, I rarely see men admit they listen to her music or even admit that her music is relatable to them but Taylor’s music has helped me for over ten years. Despite almost every single song of hers being from a female perspective, her lyrics have always held a special place in my heart because I felt like she understood me and what I was going through even if I hadn’t experienced the situations she was describing.
While I personally feel that the shorter/original version of the song is still superior because the pain, sorrow, and emotion in Taylor’s voice is more prevalent, the short film along with the new ten minute version of the beloved song compliment each other extremely well. The additional lyrics in the ten minute version, as well as the actual video depicting the relationship from Taylor’s point of view shine a new light on the relationship the song and film are about. The kitchen scene is clearly the standout of the short film as this is the most noticeable point where the music stops and for the second time in the video we can actually hear spoken dialogue. Obviously the kitchen scene is included to show how Taylor was gaslighted by her partner and to let us into Taylor’s world at that time, but what stood out to me in the kitchen scene was how Taylor chooses to keep the camera focused on the woman for almost the entire scene. This clearly is not a mistake, as the story is being told from Taylor’s point of view and this song is about her story and her feelings, so the choice to focus the camera on the woman for almost the entire scene is quite literally showing us that she is the focus, sure that’s a simple and basic tactic to use but Taylor uses it quite effectively here because she must due to the fact that it’s a short film.
As I’ve mentioned before in some other reviews, I don’t often pay attention to colors and lighting but Taylor’s use of lighting here can and probably will go unnoticed by most people because she doesn’t really make it stand out as much as she could’ve but I’m sure that was intentional. There are three main colors used in the short film, Yellow, Blue, and of course, Red. I’ve only watched the short film twice at the time of writing this and I could be wrong but when the color Yellow is prominent, I think those scenes represent how Taylor felt warmth, love, and happiness in her heart because of how in love she was. When the color Blue is used, those scenes appear to represent the coldness of the male character and possibly how Taylor felt cold inside at the time as well. When Red is used, I think it represents her finally coming to terms with what happened and how everything happened, and it’s a bittersweet culmination of the yellow and blue scenes while showing us how much something can mean to someone else and even if we’ve come to terms with what’s happened, our minds still remember the yellow and blue scenes in our lives from time to time.
The ending of the film ties together phenomenally with the ending of the ten minute version of the song. We see the woman giving a speech at a book reading/signing for her book titled All Too Well, with a blue cover, yellow lights in the building and her with Red hair. This represents how Taylor’s song is like a book, or chapter of her life that we all know about because like an author releases a book for us to read, Taylor releases her albums to not only let her fans into how she feels but for her fans, such as myself to understand how she feels and that we are not alone in what we feel.
The lyrics “And you called me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest, I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here because I remember it all too well. Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it, I’d like to be my old self again but I’m still trying to find it” and “There we are again, and I loved you so! Back before you lost the one real thing you’ve ever known” have always stood out to me, but they stand out to me now more than ever because it’s like Taylor was able to express my emotions for me and as mentioned earlier, it’s like she knows what I’m going through and knew that I would currently feel this way almost ten years later when she wrote those lyrics. Back to the ending of the song and short film, as we the woman giving a speech we see all three colors used, Yellow, Blue, and Red, but we also see the man walking past and he stops outside and is looking at her as the ending of the song fades out with the lyrics…
“Just between us, do you remember it all too well? Just between us, I remember it all too well.
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well
Wind in my hair, you were there, you remember it all
Down the stairs, you were there, you remember it all
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well”
The ending of the video, as well as the end of the song is one lover telling the other lover how they remember the love they once shared so well, and asks, as well as hopes their partner thinks about them and remembers the love they shared in the same way because it was so real for one of them. As stated above, I still prefer the original version but the way the song fades out with the lyrics above has got to be one of the most emotional endings to a Taylor Swift song. The choice to have the music fade out reminds me of how memories fade and how people tell you it gets easier with time, and one day you won’t think about that person anymore, but at the same time the pain in Taylor’s voice represents a person that doesn’t want to forget and let those memories fade because despite the pain, the love they felt was so real and there were good memories made as well. You can hear the yearning of her voice wishing things had played out differently, and worked out because of how much that person meant to them. All of this, tied together with the ending of the video of the man watching her from outside the building, works so well because even though the camera angle is used from the back of the man, there’s something about that camera shot along with the music that makes us feel like he regrets the way he treated her and maybe he remembers the love they shared together just as well as she does.
I’m definitely a Taylor Swift fan and I’ve never been ashamed or cared what people thought of that because as mentioned above, her music speaks to me and has helped me throughout the last ten or eleven years of my life and that means more to me than what people think. So, I was obviously going to love this short film, and the newly re-recorded Red album, but I didn’t expect to love the short film as much as I did. While I’m normally not a cryer, I’ve cried this year more than almost any other year in my life, but the opening lines of dialogue of this short film made tears flow instantly and as I watched the romance blossom, intimate moments shared, arguments, the reeling, and so many other moments take place in this short film, I was reminded of all those same things I experienced in my relationship and I couldn’t stop crying. Taylor paints such simple yet exquisite scenes, and Dylan O’Brien & Sadie Sink’s performances were outstanding and help make the short film feel real and authentic.
“That’s what happened: You”
This review is already much longer than I expected to write and quite frankly, I could write even more about how every single lyric of both versions of All Too Well mean to me, but I’ll keep those for myself and the people who are unfortunate enough to have a conversation with me about them. Overall, this short film shows great promise from Taylor as a director and I hope to see more songs of hers get short films attached to them but at the same time, that might take away from how special this one is to her and her fans. My personal rating on both the new version of All Too Well and it’s accompanying short film is a 9/10.
Thank you for reading
- K 😊
“Just between us, did the love affair maim you too?”