All Too Well: The Short Film

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All Too Well: The Short Film
All Too Well short film poster.jpg
Official poster
Directed byTaylor Swift
Written byTaylor Swift
Based on"All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From the Vault)" by Taylor Swift
Produced by
  • Taylor Swift
  • Saul Germaine
Starring
CinematographyRina Yang
Edited byTed Guard
Production
companies
  • Taylor Swift Productions
  • Saul Projects
Distributed by
Release date
  • November 12, 2021 (2021-11-12)
Running time
14:55
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

All Too Well: The Short Film is a 2021 romantic drama short film written and directed by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. An adaptation of her 2012 track "All Too Well", the film is set to the 10-minute version of the song. It stars Sadie Sink and Dylan O'Brien as a romantic couple whose up-and-down relationship ultimately falls apart. Produced by Saul Projects and Taylor Swift Productions, the film was released on November 12, 2021, in select theaters by Universal Pictures, and on YouTube by PolyGram Entertainment and Republic Records, alongside Swift's second re-recorded album Red (Taylor's Version).

All Too Well: The Short Film 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 and Toronto film festivals. The film opened to acclaim from contemporary critics, who complimented Swift's direction, the cinematography, and the performances of Sink and O'Brien. It received five nominations at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, winning Video of the Year, Best Longform Video, and Best Direction; Swift became the first act in VMA history to win Video of the Year three times.[note 1]

Synopsis[edit]

All Too Well: The Short Film is a film adaptation of the 2021 song "All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From the Vault)" by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.[1] A literary quote from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda—"Love is so short, forgetting is so long"—from his poem "Puedo Escribir Los Versos" opens the film.[note 2] The story chronicles the relationship of two doomed lovers, Her and Him, compounded by an age gap. "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" plays throughout the film, except during a dialogued conflict between Her and Him.[3] The song details a blooming romance between two people, and its subsequent dissolution and resulting heartbreak. Her is the younger version of Swift, and Him the subject.[4] The nearly 15-minute film is divided into seven chapters—"An Upstate Escape", "The First Crack 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 between Her and Him.[5]

Plot[edit]

The story starts with the couple lying in bed together, Her mesmerized by Him. They venture into upstate New York in a car.[note 3] Her leaves her red scarf at a house belonging to Him's sister. Their relationship takes a turn at a dinner party, where Him ignores his girlfriend with a hand gesture, as he is busy catching up with his friends, making Her uncomfortable. 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. Him starts to distance himself from Her, eventually breaking up with her. A devastated Her weeps in bed, ignoring his phone calls. Her is seen typing on her typewriter and crumbling paper sheets. A montage shows Her alone at parties and dismal on her 21st birthday.[note 4] 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, where Her has become an author and released her book All Too Well,[note 5] presumably detailing the heartache of her early twenties. She reads out the book to an audience in a packed bookstore. Outside the store, an older Him stands in the snow, watching Her through the window, wearing the same scarf she had abandoned 13 years ago.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Swift has stated via her social media accounts that All Too Well: The Short Film was shot on 35 mm film by Japanese-Korean-British cinematographer Rina Yang.[8][9] 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.[10] Swift cited "Barbara Stanwyck films, particularly 1937's Stella Dallas," John Cassavetes, and Noah Baumbach, especially his Marriage Story (2019), as artistic influences for All Too Well: The Short Film.[11][12]

Swift said in November 2021 on Late Night with Seth Meyers that she cast Sink and 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. Swift explained, "I like working with friends or people who I think would be excited about working with me. I've never made a short film before. I needed to reach out to people who would maybe believe that I was capable with it. I'm just blown away by what [Sink and O'Brien] did—they went out and left it all on the field".[13] Sink stated she accepted Swift's offer without hesitation as she was a fan of Swift and was also interested in playing a "more rounded and mature" role while portraying her Stranger Things character Max Mayfield during production of the series' fourth season.[14] Swift further revealed that Sink and O'Brien "were so electric and [improvising] a lot of what they were doing that we just couldn't take the camera off [them]".[5]

Release and promotion[edit]

In September 2021, Swift announced that her re-recorded album, Red (Taylor's Version), a re-recording of her fourth studio album Red (2012), would be released on November 12, 2021.[15] It contains both the re-recorded version of the track "All Too Well" and its 10-minute uncut version as a bonus track "from the vault".[16][17] On November 5, 2021, Good Morning America revealed a teaser for the short film.[18][19] The teaser featured a vintage car driving down on a quiet road surrounded by autumnal trees, as well as the names of the cast members.[8] All Too Well: The Short Film is a dramatized account of the incidents and dynamics of the relationship described in the song.[20] The film is about "an effervescent, curious young woman who ends up completely out of her depth", stated Swift.[21] She also said the film is an expression of her gratitude to her fans for their reception to the song "All Too Well" over the years.[22]

Premiere[edit]

The film's world premiere took place on November 12 at the AMC Theatres in Lincoln Square, New York City[23] with an audience that included Swift, Sink, O'Brien, journalists, film and music critics, and handpicked fans.[20] Each audience member received an autographed movie poster and a custom packet of tissues.[24] Swift performed "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" in the theatre after the screening.[25] The film was later released on the same day on YouTube, 19 hours after the album's release at midnight.[26] It had a limited theatrical release in major cities.[27]

Film festivals[edit]

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, Swift discussed her filmmaking process, while Sink and O'Brien talked about their characters in the film.[28] Paula Weinstein, the chief content officer of the festival, said in a statement regarding Swift: "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."[29][30]

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;[12] Swift was interviewed by the festival's CEO, Cameron Bailey,[31][32] regarding "[her] filmmaking and visual aspects of her music."[33]

Reception[edit]

Critical reviews[edit]

Swift's direction was a subject of critical praise.

All Too Well: The Short Film was met with near-universal acclaim from contemporary film critics.[34][35][1] Variety critic Ramin Setoodeh dubbed the short film "a music video on steroids meets a Noah Baumbach movie".[36] Brittany Spanos of Rolling Stone called it a "dramatic and moving" film that "digs deep into heartache and scarf lore".[37] Writing for Entertainment Weekly, Jessica Derschowitz and Jason Lamphier stated All Too Well: The Short Film depicts a blooming romance, and "how fractured it is before it eventually falls apart".[25]

Rhian Daly of NME said the film underscores "the emotional power of [Swift's] storytelling" with "devastating" cinematography and "electric performances" by Sink and O'Brien.[38] The Hollywood Reporter's Lexy Perez opined that All Too Well: The Short Film chronicles "the rise and fall of a relationship" between the lead characters, exploring the couple's first "blissful moments of new love" till their downfall and separation.[39] 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".[40] Ryan Louis Mantilla added that "Sink and O'Brien bring Swift's characters to life with vividly emotional performances telling an incredibly moving tale of love, power, gaslighting, and heartache in the 15-minute film."[41]

Karl Quinn, in his review for The Sydney Morning Herald, complimented the "gorgeously cliched Notebook-style" screenplay, Swift's direction, and the "finely tuned" performances of Sink and O'Brien.[42] 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.[43] Vogue's Sarah Spellings said many of the film's scenes felt like "in-jokes with the audience" and commended the midway dialogue featuring an argument between Sink and O'Brien's characters: "It felt less like a real fight and more like how you describe a fight to your friends later. In other words, it was a depiction of how a fight feels."[44] 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".[45] Independent critic CJ Sheu lauded Swift's craftsmanship, Yang's cinematography, and Sink's "engrossing" performance. He called the dialogued argument a "powerful scene".[46]

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".[47] 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".[48] Laura Coates, publishing on RogerEbert.com, commended Swift's direction, the "meticulous lighting and eye for production design", Yang's camerawork, and the "electric" chemistry between Sink and O'Brien. Coates highlighted the argument scene as well: "Though the instinct may be to emphasize the volatility of their relationship with quick, jarring cuts, the unflinching persistence of the single take means the viewer is left with nothing to do but squirm and despair as we watch their relationship fall apart before our eyes."[35] In a less favorable review, Renaldo Matadeen of Comic Book Resources described the film as a "powerful character portrait" with "great cinematography and clever pacing" but felt that Swift's appearance near the end as a grown Sink "takes away from the artistic, auteur feel" of the film, preventing it from being a "perfect indie film".[49]

The film briefly had the highest rating on film review site Letterboxd before Parasite (2019) regained the status.[27][9]

Commercial performance[edit]

The short film had a limited release in select theatres of major cities.[27] Following its release to YouTube, the film was the number-one trending video on the platform with over 14 million views.[9] It amassed 32 million views in its first three days.[42] The short film helped its source material, "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)", debut atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, garnering Swift's her eighth number-one song in the US, and the longest song ever to top the chart—a feat recognized in Guinness World Records.[50] As of September 2, 2022, the film has 75 million views on YouTube.[51]

Accolades[edit]

All Too Well: The Short Film has received awards recognition in a diverse set of fields. At the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, the short film was nominated in five categories, including Swift's fifth nomination for Video of the Year,[note 7]—a record tied with Beyoncé for the most Video of the Year nominations;[48] Swift was also nominated for Best Direction for a third consecutive year, following the music videos of "The Man" in 2020 and "Willow" in 2021.[52][53] The film won Video of the Year and Best Longform Video, and Swift won Best Direction; she became the first artist to win Video of the Year thrice, and the first artist to win Video of the Year for a self-directed video.[54]

Awards and nominations for All Too Well: The Short Film
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
NME Awards March 2, 2022 Best Music Video
Taylor Swift
Nominated [55]
Art Directors Guild Awards March 5, 2022 Excellence in Production Design for a Music Video
Ethan Tobman, Mila Khalevich, Emil Pilosov
Won [56]
Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia June 7, 2022 Global Spotlight Award
Swift
Nominated [57][58]
Set Decorators Society of America Awards August 2, 2022 Best Achievement in Decor/Design of a Short Format
Tobman, Khalevich
Nominated [59]
MTV Video Music Awards August 28, 2022 Video of the Year
Swift
Won [60][54]
Best Longform Video
Swift
Won
Best Direction
Swift
Won
Best Editing
Ted Guard
Nominated
Best Cinematography
Rina Yang
Nominated

Impact[edit]

Publications have described the short film as one of the biggest newsmakers and pop culture moments of 2021.[61][62][63][64] IHeartRadio called it a "cultural sensation".[65] Google searches of Sink and O'Brien reached an all-time high after the film's release.[66] 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.[67] 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 Swift's works, such as All Too Well: The Short Film, to understand their literary references and sociopolitical relevance in contemporary culture.[68]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Her previous wins were for "Bad Blood" in 2015 and "You Need to Calm Down" in 2019.
  2. ^ The poem is popularly known by its English-language title "Tonight I Can Write". The original Spanish-language line of the quote is "Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido." Swift previously included the quote in the liner notes of Red (2012).[2]
  3. ^ a 1989 Mercedes-Benz S-class car.[2]
  4. ^ Her is also seen on her bed wearing a plaid shirt that Him once wore during their trip upstate.[2]
  5. ^ The book cover highly resembles that of The Giving Tree, a popular children's storybook about a divisive relationship between a boy and the eponymous tree.[4]
  6. ^ At the red carpet premiere, when asked if his character was based on American actor Jake Gyllenhaal, whom the song is speculated to be about, O'Brien said that his character's name is Brandon.[6][7]
  7. ^ Before the film, Swift had been nominated for Video of the Year for "I Knew You Were Trouble" in 2013, "Bad Blood" in 2015, "You Need to Calm Down' in 2019, and "The Man" in 2020.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]