Taylor Swift makes directorial debut with ‘All Too Well’ short film, a harrowing depiction of romance

Mackenzie Sullivan

Taylor Swift made a grand entrance into the film production sphere with the Nov. 12 premiere of “All Too Well: The Short Film,” which accompanied the newly released 10-minute version of the song “All Too Well.” Though Swift previously directed multiple music videos, “All Too Well: The Short Film” marks her directorial debut.

The film premiered on YouTube following the release of Red (Taylor’s Version), a rerecording of the 2012 album speculated to draw inspiration from Swift’s past relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. Besides writing and directing the film, Swift also starred alongside Sadie Sink (“Stranger Things”) and Dylan O’Brien (“Teen Wolf”), credited as “Her” and “Him” respectively.

Watching the film feels like opening a time capsule, which the dreamy, hazy visuals exacerbate. Since Swift wrote and directed the film based on her own experiences, the project feels autobiographical. Each vignette gives the audience a glimpse into her memory, from the dreamlike beginning of the relationship to the first crack in the glass.

Divided by title screens, each segment of the film marks a different stage of the romance. The film follows the song note for note, each scene perfectly lining up with the lyrics, occasionally breaking for scenes with audible dialogue. 

The chemistry between Sink and O’Brien bolsters the drama, almost making viewers feel as though they intruded on far-too intimate interactions. Even in scenes without dialogue, Sink and O’Brien powerfully depict their characters’ thoughts and feelings through animated facial expressions and body language. 

Shot on a 35 mm film by cinematographer Rina Yang, her masterful camerawork adds even more depth to Swift’s story. This becomes most obvious during an electric scene depicting Sink and O’Brien arguing, where the camera follows the two in one continuous shot, making their interactions feel excruciatingly real. 

Swift’s strategic casting adds another layer to the characters’ dynamic. With Sink at age 19 and O’Brien at age 30, the couple mirrors the age gap between Swift and Gyllenhaal. While jarring at first glance, the difference forces audience reflection. Without explicitly saying anything, Swift’s intentional casting choices shed light on her true thoughts about her and Gyllenhaal’s complicated relationship.

Sink depicts a youthful Swift flawlessly, capturing all of the wide-eyed naivety that comes with being young and in love. Her wardrobe acts as a direct parallel to many of Swift’s outfits from earlier eras, such as the signature red lipstick and black turtleneck she dons in one scene.

While Swift only previously directed music videos, this short film showcases the versatility in her directing skills. “All Too Well: The Short Film” reads as a true love letter to her longtime fans, giving them a much-anticipated visual to accompany the revitalized song. 

5 red scarves out of 5