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All Too Well (The Short Film)

Short Film | November 12, 2021

All Too Well (The Short Film) is a romantic drama short film written and directed by Taylor. Titled after her 2012 song “All Too Well“, it is an adaptation of the song’s 10-minute version, starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien as a romantic couple whose up-and-down relationship ultimately falls apart, with a brief appearance from Taylor. The film was released on November 12, 2021, alongside Taylor’s second re-recorded album, RED (Taylor’s Version).
All Too Well: The Short Film marked Taylors’ debut as a film director, following her self-directed Disney+ documentary concert film, folklore: the long pond studio sessions (2020). It premiered at AMC Theatres in Lincoln Square, New York City, followed by a limited theatrical release in major cities, and received special screenings at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival as well as the Toronto International Film Festival.
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Background and Production

Taylor released her second re-recorded album, RED (Taylor’s Version), a re-recording of her fourth studio album RED (2012), on November 12, 2021. It contains the re-recorded version of the fan-favorite track “All Too Well”, and its original 10-minute version as a bonus track “from the vault”. On November 12, 2021, Taylor revealed on a Late Night with Seth Meyers episode that she casted Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien because they were the only two people she imagined playing the roles, noting that she is a fan of O’Brien’s works and that she would not have proceeded with making the film had Sink turned down the offer. She explained:

«It was wonderful working with Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. I’m blown away by what they did. I wrote this short film and wanted to direct it and the only two people I imagined playing the two characters were Sadie and Dylan. If Sadie had said no, I don’t think I would’ve made it. I would’ve been like, ‘This is a sign.’ I do like working with friends, or people who I think would be excited about working with me. I don’t really want to convince someone — I’m not very interested in that at all. I’ve never made a short film before. I’ve done some music videos, but I needed to reach out to people who would maybe believe I’d be capable. Sadie got it immediately, Dylan was like, ‘Yep!’ I watch everything he’s in, I’m a huge fan! And they just went all out and left it all on the field there. They just really acted their asses off.»

Taylor Swift
Taylor sent Dylan a novella-length text message asking him to appear in the short film and he agreed without hesitation. She told Bustle in 2022: “Dylan was my first choice for the ‘All Too Well’ short film because he has that versatility I was looking for. I’d seen his work and heard nothing but wonderful things about him as a person. Ultimately, I want to work with people who love what they do and come at it with enthusiasm, because that’s how I approach creating things too. I had a feeling he would be great at ad libbing and adding nuance to his character, which enriched the story tenfold. He absolutely blew me away and I feel really lucky that I gained such a great friend from the experience too.”

Taylor has stated that All Too Well (The Short Film) was shot on 35 mm film by Japanese-Korean-British cinematographer Rina Yang. Yang used an Arri Arriflex 235 for handheld and steadicam, and Panavision MXL for dolly work; lenses were Panavision Primo, with 11:1 Primo zoom. She shot exterior scenes on Kodak Ektachrome—the same kind she had used to shoot the HBO television series Euphoria. Taylor cited “Barbara Stanwyck films, particularly 1937’s Stella Dallas,” John Cassavetes, and Noah Baumbach, especially his Marriage Story (2019), as artistic influences for the short film.

Release and Promotion

On November 5, 2021, Good Morning America revealed a teaser for a short film written and directed by Taylor, titled All Too Well (The Short Film), based on the song. The teaser showed a vintage car driving down on a road surrounded by autumnal trees, and its cast consisting of Taylor, American actress Sadie Sink, and American actor Dylan O’Brien.

The film’s world premiere took place on November 12 at the AMC Theatres in Lincoln Square, New York City with an audience that included Taylor, Sink, O’Brien, journalists, film and music critics, and handpicked fans.Each audience member received an autographed movie poster and a custom packet of tissues.Taylor also performed “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” in the theatre after the screening. The film was later released on the same day on YouTube. It had a limited theatrical release in major cities.

On June 11, 2022, the short film had a special screening at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. In an interview with American director Mike Mills, Taylor discussed her filmmaking process, while Sink and O’Brien talked about their characters in the film. Paula Weinstein, the chief content officer of the festival, said in a statement regarding Taylor: “We are very excited and enthusiastic to present a compelling slate of Reunions, Master Classes and Talks from one of the most leading and well-known storytellers from all across art, comedy, music, television and film.”

The film was screened in its 35 mm form for the first time at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2022, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Ontario; Taylor was interviewed by the festival’s CEO, Cameron Bailey, regarding “[her] filmmaking and visual aspects of her music.”

Synopsis

All Too Well (The Short Film) opens with the same literary quote from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda that Taylor used to introduce the original RED album in 2012: “Love is so short, forgetting is so long”. The film chronicles the relationship of two doomed lovers, Her and Him, soundtracked by Taylor’s 2021 song “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)“. The 15-minute film consists of seven chapters: “An Upstate Escape”, The First Cracks In The Glass”, “Are You Real?”, “The Breaking Point”, “The Reeling”, “The Remembering” and the epilogue “Thirteen Years Gone”, each of which represent a formative period in the relationship of Her and Him.

Plot

The story starts with the couple lying in bed together, Her mesmerized by Him. They travel to upstate New York, where she leaves her red scarf at a house belonging to his sister. Their relationship takes a turn at a dinner party, where Him ignores his girlfriend as he is busy catching up with his friends. They fight afterwards; Him is arrogant and dismissive, while a distraught Her is heartbroken but still wants to stay with Him. He apologizes and kisses her to end the argument, and they dance in the refrigerator light. Eventually, Him starts to not be there for Her when she needs him, leading to Him breaking up with Her. A devastated Her weeps in bed, ignoring his phone calls. A montage shows Her alone at parties and miserable on her 21st birthday. At the movie’s premiere, Taylor said:

«When you’re 19 or 20 you've got this unique moment in life when you have one foot in childhood and one foot in adulthood. It was really important to me to tell and show that story with an actress like Sadie who is so incredibly prolifically talented.»

Taylor Swift
Him’s life carries on as he walks alone down a Brooklyn street, recalling some of the happier moments in his relationship with Her. The film then jumps 13 years into the future. Her has become an author (now portrayed by Taylor) and is celebrating the release of her novel All Too Well, presumably detailing the heartache of her early twenties, by reading it out to an audience of fans in a packed bookstore. Outside, an older Him watches Her through the window, wearing the same scarf she had abandoned years earlier.

Critical Reception

All Too Well (The Short Film) was met with critical acclaim. Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone called it a “dramatic and moving” film that “digs deep into heartache and scarf lore”. Rhian Daly of NME said the film underscores “the emotional power of [Taylor’s] storytelling” with “devastating” cinematography and “electric performances” by Sink and O’Brien. In Collider, Shane Romanchick wrote the film “recontextualizes how relationships, through all their painful and rose-colored moments, help us grow to be better people”. Karl Quinn, in his review for The Sydney Morning Herald, complimented the “gorgeously cliched Notebook-style” screenplay, Taylor’s direction, and the “finely tuned” performances of Sink and O’Brien. Film critic Steve Pulaski said All Too Well (The Short Film) is “a bold, brilliant work that illustrates the ongoing maturation of Swift as more than a singer-songwriter” and dubbed her “an impeccably gifted storyteller with her detail-oriented narratives”. He also praised Rina Yang’s “gorgeous autumnal” cinematography.

Indie Shorts Mag, rating the film 4.9 out of 5, praised the direction and dubbed the film “apotheosis of Taylor Swift’s discography, lore and fandom”. Independent critic CJ Sheu lauded Taylor’s craftsmanship, Yang’s cinematography, and Sink’s “engrossing” performance. He called the dialogued argument a “powerful scene”. In USA Today, Patrick Ryan wrote that the film was “operatic in its emotions and scope” and felt the argument scene was “particularly gut-wrenching”. Billboard‘s Paul Grein also praised the argument, saying the writing in the scene is “so vivid that it’s easy to see Swift winning an Oscar for screenwriting one day”.

Accolades

All Too Well (The Short Film) has received awards recognition in a diverse set of fields. It received five nominations at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, winning “Video of the Year,” “Best Longform Video,” and “Best Direction”; Taylor became the first act in VMA history to win “Video of the Year” three times. It also won “Best Video” at the 2022 MTV Europe Music Awards. The film contends for “Favorite Music Video” and “Best Music Video” at the forthcoming 2022 American Music Awards and 65th Annual Grammy Awards (2023), respectively.

In Popular Culture

Publications have described the short film as one of the biggest newsmakers and pop culture moments of 2021. Canadian singer Michael Bublé, in the music video for his 2022 single “I’ll Never Not Love You,” referenced and recreated iconic “love scenes” from various movies with his wife, Luisana Lopilato; it included All Too Well (The Short Film), with Bublé as Him and Lopilato as Her. The Department of English of the Queen’s University at Kingston, a public research university in Ontario, Canada, offers a fall semester course titled “Taylor Swift’s Literary Legacy (Taylor’s Version)”, with a syllabus requiring students to analyse many of Taylor’s works, such as All Too Well (The Short Film), to understand their literary references and sociopolitical relevance in contemporary culture.

Watch All Too Well (The Short Film)

General Information
Associated SongAll Too Well (10 Minute Version)
ReleasedNovember 12, 2021
Directed byTaylor Swift
Written byTaylor Swift
Produced byTaylor Swift
Saul Germaine
Running Time14:56
Distributed byPolyGram Entertainment
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
CinematographyRina Yang
Edited byTed Guard
Production CompaniesTaylor Swift Productions
Saul Projects
StarringSadie Sink (Her)
Dylan O’Brien (Him)
Taylor Swift (Her, Later On)
Shawn Levy (Her’s Father)
Trailer
The Cast
TIFF Panel
Highest Honors
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