Warning: Slight spoilers for All Too Well: The Short Film
Laying on the bed, when Sadie Sink’s character of Her dazedly asks “Are you for real?” she is entwined with Dylan O’Brien’s character of Him. Him and Her appear enclosed in their own clandestine haven.
I already looked up the ages of the actors once the short film was announced. Sink is nineteen and O’Brien is thirty and even entwined together I cannot be fooled that their characters are closer in age. I’m just a year younger than Sink, so her being so intimately held by someone a decade older makes me a bit uncomfortable.
But that’s the point.
If you’ve listened to the original shorter version of Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well,” you would know a story about a woman whose lover left them broken and inadequate. Now, if you’ve listened to the recent “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” you would notice the established narrative unfurl further: a woman — who still feels like a girl — left feeling insecure in the presence of her older lover.
In that first scene, you can already tell so much. Her is sweet-faced with a young flush, her eyes are alert because being there with Him is so new and thrilling for her. Him has a dark beard, betraying his mature age and his eyes are softer — he seems content but doesn’t appear to entertain her same thrill. Sink and O’Brien portray this wonderfully in those first few seconds.
“Are you for real?”
Her asks him initially because when it’s just the two of them everything is enthralling and heavenly.
You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.
This line from the song is important to the film because it shows how when the relationship was treated as a secret just for the two lovers everything was tender and loving. However, as the film will proceed to show, once others are let in that loving foundation will begin to crumble.
Soon enough, the song’s ten-minute version begins to play in the background, and scenes between the lovers run by in coherence with the lyrics. They start out playful, happy, and in love — intensely in love — as they drive through pretty autumn trees. The camera always makes sure to focus on their faces; there is the fall scenery, yes, but mostly it is just them — Her and Him. But then, we see them transition into the plummet of downfall when the music abruptly stops and we hear the actors talk again.
They have an argument. It’s tense. It’s gripping.
At that moment I cannot help but somehow picture myself in the shoes of Sadie’s character. She feels insecure about something her partner never noticed he did. To him, it’s a small thing and he tells her to stop obsessing. Stop looking for things where there’s no meaning. I’ve looked for such things before, but in my place, I do find meaning, so I understand what Her is going through. She’s hurt because Him doesn’t get her. Soon enough, O’ Brien’s character begins to placate her in a way that almost seems like he’s placating a child, and Sadie’s character seems very much like a child at that moment in her distress and sadness.
The film continues with moments of happiness laced with desperation as the lovers try to clutch onto what they have, moments of hardship where they find that they cannot take it any longer, and moments in the aftermath of their downfall.
Swift has split the video into sections with titles that enunciate the story behind each part of the video. It’s especially useful so that viewers understand the story she’s trying to convey through her song even better.
It is interesting to notice that Sink’s character is reflective of Swift’s own personality. We see her take to a typewriter after the breakup, much like Swift takes to her songwriting. Then in the final scene, when it cuts to thirteen years in the future, Sink’s character is all grown and played by Swift herself. She’s a famous author in this reality with a novel titled All Too Well. It’s a fun easter egg, and fascinating to imagine where else Swift’s writing prowess might have taken her.
So far I’ve spoken solely about the experience of Sink’s character. However, O’ Brien did especially well in his part too. He does not make himself seem like a complete jerk, ignorant to his young lover’s feelings. He shows his own moments of regret and remembrance after the break-up. I also do like that the film showed Him’s side of the story as well. Often in Swift’s songs, the heartbreak is all from the woman’s perspective, because Taylor writes through her own eyes. It was refreshing to see the man’s viewpoint, to see how he also valued the relationship.
Taylor Swift has done stunningly in the writing and directing of All Too Well: The Short Film, and I’m sure many fans like myself are pleased with the result of one of their most beloved songs getting the music video it deserved. You all should definitely take the time to listen to “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” and the rest of RED (Taylor’s Version). I’m sure you’ll love it.