Taylor Swift is known for her heartbreak songs such as Red and Blank Space and country music teenage girls adored. Recently she’s started to re-release her first six studio albums. The most recent was Red. Unlike the other re-releases that are put out, they remain in the public consciousness and then goes out of it again. This one has a short film alongside it named after one of the songs on the album. All too well is directed by Taylor Swift and has a run time of ten minutes. But will sparks fly with the directorial debut? Or will I be seeing Red?
Admittedly I’m not sure where to start with this review, which is rare! So I guess the best place to start is with the plot. Sadie Sink plays a young woman called Her who is in a relationship with Dylan O’Brien’s character Him. Through the next ten minutes, we see the breakdown of the relationship.
If anyone has seen Stranger Things, Sadie Sink is nineteen, and Dylan O’Brien is thirty. Even without this knowledge, you can tell that the breakdown of this relationship is going to be more than a lover’s tiff or an affair.
The film starts in the middle of the relationship as they are already together. The first shot we see of the pair is a birdseye view of them in bed together. With Her asking, ‘Are you real? Because I feel like I made you up.’ And then the ten-minute version of the song ‘All too well kicks in.’ Which always matches what we see on the screen. For example, Taylor Swift mentions the scarf in the house we see on screen left on the railing.
All too well (the movie) wouldn’t work without the music, even if it is exposition without show.
Without the music, elements of the theme wouldn’t be as developed as they were. Or the structure would have to change to show the start of the relationship and then the slow decline! Which in my head might not have fit as well without the music. However, I would’ve liked more scenes to have the shots happening before the odd expository lyric comes in gracefully. Sadie and Dylan do a great job with the acting, and there’s enough work put in for the audience to figure it out.
Sadie Sink sells the breakdown of this relationship well and the harrowing growth ‘Her’ is forced to go through thanks to ‘Him’. I’m not sold on the romantic chemistry shown before the breakdown. However, this could be intentional to show the pair not working from the offset.
However, that is a minor nitpick as Sadie Sink is a master at the relationship breakdown and loss of identity. She sells the isolation and the hurt, and her crying face is perfect.
Dylan O’ Brien is great, and when the music stops for the argument at the dishes, you can feel the defensiveness of the character.
Camera work and symbolism
Although for all my criticisms Taylor Swift as a director does some good stuff with the camera. The most memorable shots are the birds-eye view of ‘Her’ crying reaching for the phone. And this is one of the few times the music doesn’t go straight to telling you what’s on screen. And you figure out Him has tried to phone her, and it hurt.
The next shot I remember vividly is the ‘Her’ character at a gallery in a black dress and red lipstick looking out of place.
Yes, the shots used aren’t revolutionary, and no, they don’t have sweeping pans and different neon lighting. But the simplicity gets a lot across and works for what the story is trying to tell.
Also, Dylan O Brien standing outside of the bookstore with flashbacks to show how he remembers it. ‘All Too Well’ is simple but a great example of not telling and brings the narrative together well.
Although we see them in the middle of the relationship, there is a lot of development with it her being happy, then broken down, then having to find herself. It’s a universal story, but a good one. The development gets me to care for this film a smidge more. All that I knew before this movie was forced upon me by Twitter!
Taylor Swift provides a ten-minute exploration into age gap relationships which is heartfelt and has moments of poignancy. With excellent camera work, development and symbolism, it offers a good escape, and the music sounds good too! However, with that ten minutes, you could find other more potent films in telling Taylor Swift’s message. Ultimately, if you’re a Swiftie, you’ll love it. And if you are a general fan like me, you’ll enjoy watching it and won’t regret it. Still, there’s also other forms of enjoyment, especially when I feel like I care for the music more! Even with the odd camera shot and Sadie Sink!
Two and a half stars out of five- a decent debut for Taylor Swift! And I would like to see her direct again her use of the camera was great! And hopefully with more time and less dependency on the song the writing will be more potent.
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