This week brings the greatly anticipated release of “Red (Taylor’s Version)” — Taylor Swift’s rerecording of her fourth studio album “Red.” The new release includes the 20 original songs and 10 unheard “From The Vault” tracks — all which Swift now officially owns.
The renowned fan favorite and Swift’s personal favorite from the album, “All Too Well,” is back and better than ever, as the original, uncut 10-minute version of the song is available on all streaming services for fans to cherish. Swift has teased this version of the song since the album’s original release in 2012, and now, nearly a decade later, it is getting the recognition it deserves with an unexpected and breathtaking short film.
Swift cast Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien herself and told Seth Meyers, “I’ve never made a short film before. I needed to reach out to people who would maybe believe that I would be capable of it … They went out and left it all on the field.” She also said if Sink and O’Brien hadn’t been interested in the project, she would have dropped the idea entirely. “They were the only two people I imagined playing [these roles],” Swift said.
Some confusion has arisen over the age gap of the actors, as Sink is 19 and O’Brien is 30. However, the 11-year age difference is important to the story — the conflict conveyed in the song and relationship heavily relies on the age gap, with lyrics like “You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine” and “I was never good at telling jokes, but the punch line goes / ‘I'll get older, but your lovers stay my age.’”
The film sits at 14:55 minutes and was shot by Rina Yang entirely on 35 mm film, which adds to the rustic, autumnal aesthetic of the song. Split into seven different chapters — “An Upstate Escape,” “The First Cracks In The Glass,” “Are You Real?,” “The Breaking Point,” “The Reeling,” “The Remembering” and “Thirteen Years Gone” — each section chronologically breaks down the grueling story of the couple’s relationship, which is rumored and widely accepted to closely follow the narrative of Swift’s three-month relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal in 2010.
It might be easiest to think of the short film as an extended music video with a short dialogue between Sink and O’Brien before the song begins and a heart-wrenching fight between the lovers, unaccompanied by music, starting at 3:38. Their performance together is absolutely captivating, and their on-screen chemistry is undeniable. Swift told Jimmy Fallon “[Sink and O’Brien] were so electric and improv-ing a lot of what they were doing that we just couldn’t take the camera off them, we couldn’t cut, we couldn’t edit.”
Swift appears in the film at 11:23, as she plays Sink’s character, 13 years removed from the start of the relationship. Swift’s character truly makes the film come full circle, as she’s seen at her book release for her novel called “All Too Well.” As Swift is presenting her novel in a crowded bookstore, the camera moves away from Swift and pans backward toward O'Brien's older character wearing a red scarf — a recurring motif throughout the film and song — and watching Swift from afar, signifying his sense of longing and regret.
While watching the film, the camera rarely focuses on O’Brien, allowing Sink to remain the center of attention, especially during the breaks for dialogue between their characters. This is an extremely refreshing take and emphasizes that the story is told from the woman’s perspective. The coloring in the film enhances the fall setting, and the 35 mm film particularly highlights the color red in the scarf, the typewriter, Sink’s hair and lipstick and the cover of the “All Too Well” novel.
“All Too Well” is a career-defining piece for Swift as a director and songwriter and for Sink and O’Brien as actors. The film builds off of the original story of the song with poignant cinematography and incredible acting. It’s safe to say fans, and even casual viewers, have been blown away by Swift’s directorial debut and are anxious to know if she has other films in the pipeline.