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Why Taylor Swifts Short Film "All Too Well" Is A Masterpiece

by Lizzy Gabrick 18 days ago in art

With the re-release of her album "Red", Taylor's short film for one of her most impressive songs from the album leaves viewers awestruck. And this is my first time listening to the extended version of the song.

You waited for it.

It's finally here.

And admit bawled your eyes out.

This is me listening to the extended version of one of my all time favorite Taylor Swift songs for the first time and somehow, as a gift from the universe, there is a short film written and directed by the musical goddess herself to accompany my first listen.

The film is beautifully designed, acted, and artistically synched with the lyrics of Swift's newly released ten minute version of her song "All Too Well" (for perspective, her first version was already five minutes long).

The lyrics tell the story all on their own, but its a true thing of beauty to listen to the words with the backdrop of a film. Sure, its similar to a music video, one could argue, but the caliber of the film, at least in my opinion, went far beyond what I usually find in a music video.

The film starts with the female and male actors in bed, appearing to be in love, with the female questioning whether the whole relationship is something she made up in her head, seemingly because of how insanely happy she is. It then transitions to the female actress leaving her red scarf (hello...RED!) on a bannister, and I couldn't help but get chills. The allusions! All that is to come! It's an amazing signal for all of the heartbreak and emotion that I know the rest of the original song holds and I thought it was beautifully integrated into the film.

Then comes the trip to upstate New York. Nothing surprising or overwhelming here, but its nice to see two people falling in love, especially with the backdrop of nature. This is incredibly relatable, and I almost feel like a creep (for lack of a better word), as if I am watching something so raw and natural unfold without permission. A part of me wants the making out to stop, but I also understand why its shown for so long. This is love! People who love each other express it, and there is nothing like the first parts of a new relationship where you are getting to know the other person so intimately.

A great addition that comes with the film (when compared to the song alone and the lyrics as they are performed) is the headings the precede each scene change in the film. There are several before this, but what comes next is titled "The First Cracks in the Glass" and I found this to be super interesting. It really stood out to me and prompted me to pay super close attention to both the lyrics and the film. Just listening to the lyrics, one might not pick up on the fact that the bubble of perfection that has so far been alluded to is an illusion, and this integration in the film helped me to see the entire song in a new way.

I already loved it. But this really pushed things into a new tier.

Then, with the extended version of the original song, new lyrics are for the first time being sprinkled into the film. You begin to understand that one of the biggest red flags in the relationship is the man's inability to admit that what the two are sharing is love. Sure, no one but he can come to terms with that, but it's incredibly relatable for one person to feel that they are absolutely positive that they are in love with someone, but without that validation from the other half of the relationship, genuine cracks can begin to break down the entire enterprise.

Being vulnerable is the hardest thing someone can do, but is also the most rewarding.

Then there are bouts of anger. Aggression. Rage. Not necessarily directed at the partner, but still, a warning sign--a strain--all the same. There's a big fight and its easy to see, at least for me, how both individuals feel like their version of events are validated and correct. And they are probably both right, at least to some degree. This is absolutely normal. Its the way fights happen. It all makes sense. And its performed in a way that made my jaw drop. Applause. Seriously, its deserved. (Sadie Sink and Dylan O'Brien, you both earned Oscars in my eyes).

And then one of the most profound new lyrics hit me like a truck: "And there we are again, when nobody had to know. You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath." Oh my god. I'm dying. This exactly sums up the way I felt in my romantic adventures multiple times in the past, feeling that you were devoting everything--your time, your energy, all of your love--to someone who only seemed to acknowledge you when it was convenient. When you had something to provide that they wanted to take.

This has to be relatable to more than just me and Taylor Swift. C'mon.

Then, "The Breaking Point." He won't say what's bothering him and she loses it. The emotions and pain come boiling over.

And then there are tears. Lots of them. And not just from the actress who does it so well (*accio tissues*).

One of my favorite lyrics from the original version of the song plays next. "Then you call me up again just to break me like a promise, so casually cruel in the name of being honest." To be clear, I am still figuring out what this lyric means, but I love it nonetheless. I think in some ways it is to say that seeing your ex-lover's name pop up on your phone, knowing they are thinking about you and wanting something from you, hurts. But so does the reminder that you are no longer together and happy and in love in the first place, and this restarts any attempt at getting over one's heartbreak back to square one. As I said, I am still figuring it out but the rawness of this lyric gets me every time and the presentation in the film did not discount that.

And then the song bridges into another set of new lyrics, and I eat each of them up like a ravenous animal. So genuine. So emotional. So real. So relatable. You only need to have had your heart broken once to understand all of the pain this song holds, but unfortunately, most of us have been through such trauma more than once, and that only adds to the fascination I have with what the lyrics represent. The story they tell might vary slightly from person to person, but they could not be more true or more authentic.

I absolutely ate them up.

And then a new revelation hits me. Once again, like a truck. "The idea you had of me, a never-needy ever lovely jewel, whose shine reflects on you," nearly destroyed me. The idea that her happiness in being with the man she loved somehow made the man better was overwhelming. At least if you think of the man actually feeling this way. That her radiance could somehow could be tied to him, and was something he could feel good and boast about, absolutely reminds me of the "F*** the Patriarchy" line from earlier in the song. The concept completely ignores that a woman can be radiant and happy and self-sufficient all on her own. Obviously by Swift including this lyric, she means to say the opposite, but its powerful and incredible all the same.

I understand what Swift is trying to say, but her ability to come to terms with this fact is only there because of the grief and time she spent moving on from the breakup and coming to terms with the problems that were integral to it. It's cyclic. It's beautiful. And it's life as we know it.

The next segment is titled "The Reeling," and it directly shows how epiphanies like the one just discussed, occur. They take time and a lot of tears, but eventually, they find their way into the light.

And then comes "The Remembering." When listening to the original song (without a video to accompany it, of course), this is exactly what I pictured. Flashbacks of the good times, the fun times, the happy times. The crescendo that carries through this part of the song correlates exactly with the millions of memories that would come flooding back to a person whose grieving such a loss of profound love and this was exquisite to witness.

It is exactly what I pictured and exactly what I hoped I would see accompany this portion of the song that I have always loved. I was in no way disappointed to see it come to fruition.

And then I have my first real moment of laughter with this song. Swift sings next, "And I was never good at telling jokes but the punchline goes: I'll get older but your lovers stay my age." I love this. It's such a slight at someone who likely deserves it. But its also a contradiction to something the man said before, about how maybe if the two were closer in age things would have worked out. Obviously that wasn't the problem, and using it as an excuse in an attempt to sugarcoat the pain not only prolongs it for the other half, but is cowardly and pathetic. Telling the truth means there has to be some level of vulnerability and emotion. For many, lying is easier.

And then the film takes a dramatic turn I never saw coming.

Taylor Swift is transformed into the female heroine of the rest of the film. She has written a book (which appears to be a best seller) and is reading it to fans.


And then--again-- it does something I am absolutely in love with. It shows a man looking in on her reading, wearing the scarf she left behind.

I mentioned at the beginning that I knew the scarf would be important. It was memorable in the first version of the song and when it was physically left behind in the film I knew it had to make a reappearance!

But can we talk about something else?

If Taylor Swift was the female protagonist all along, the artistry of the film does something very intentional and specific when they now show the male wearing that scarf looking in.

They don't show his face!

Obviously, you assume it is the man we have been seeing the whole film--and of course it is--but symbolically it is the very man that Swift wrote the song about (and its not difficult to figure out who that is). But no matter, this addition is amazing and magical and something I never saw coming.

Of course the original ex-lover would never in a million years make an appearance in something that shuns him so directly, but its awesome to have a look-a-like play the role and create the picture we all so desperately wanted to see, even if we never realized it. As a former member of the Broken Hearts Club, this is fire. This is everything.

And that's basically it. The song continues with some repeat lyrics from before and the scene slowly fades away.

I honestly don't know what I expected when I sat down to watch this short film and hear the extended version of the song for the first time but I am truly blown away and hope you enjoy this genuine, obviously slightly biased, first-time viewer/listener account.

If you haven't already watched, the video link is above and I highly recommend it!


Lizzy Gabrick

I spent many years reading and writing in my adolescence but have found inspiration has lapsed since I have become more settled into my adult life--a career and marriage. I look forward to changing that and sharing my creations with you.

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Lizzy Gabrick
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