Written by Alexander Reams
An Upstate Escape
The First Crack in the Glass
Are You Real?
We all dream of that perfect relationship, looking across somewhere and seeing that one person that changes their life, and not even knowing it. Such is the case with the cultural phenomenon, iconic singer/songwriter, and cat parent Taylor Swift. Rumored to be about her tumultuous relationship with actor/sexiest man alive/ guy whose eyes are too wide for his face, Jake Gyllenhaal, All Too Well could definitely be considered a music video, but it’s not, it elevates itself constantly. From the performances to the gorgeous 35mm cinematography to the brilliant visual storytelling by Swift.
“Are you for real?” This opening line is followed by a simple but gorgeous opening shot of Sadie Sink, Her, and Dylan O’Brien, Him, in bed together. A shot that is very reminiscent of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson. Soon after this, we are quickly thrown into a title card then the next major section of the film, An Upstate Escape. That has O’Brien and Sink in a car together, presumably in upstate, based on the title card and the visual around it. It’s fall, life is good for these 2, we are enjoying seeing them together. Here is where cinematographer Rina Yang shines, gorgeously tracking the couple as they explore the forest together, showing their connection as pure.
Soon after we begin to see The First Crack in the Glass. Something as simple as Him letting go of Her hand. Something that clearly affects her and Sink conveys this emotion clearly. He does not see it as anything, for Her, it’s nearly everything. This first crack leads to more as she begins to see more and more issues with their relationship. Leading to a scene that lets O’Brien and Sink flex their acting chops in a way that neither has gotten a chance to before.
“Are you real?” A question that is asked at the beginning and is asked again but in a different way, a more heartbreaking way. She has begun to question the entire nature of the relationship, even after a seeming reconciliation between them after their argument, reflecting on the relationship. That ends in the exact way that you expect it to, and Sink takes this opportunity to rip our hearts out, combined with the brilliant cues of Swift’s music and direction.
After this heartbreak she begins to reflect again, this time during social events, birthdays, knowing that he is not by her side anymore, and she misses that. She knows she shouldn’t but she does. At this point we jump over to his story, seeing what he has done during this time, instead of letting the emotions out he holds them in. An unhealthy coping mechanism yes, but it is one that men are always told to do, despite the resurgence in society for men’s mental health.
Thirteen years later, both have moved on, and are at different points in our lives, like all of us are. We cannot stay stuck in the past. Something Swift is able to convey subtly. He hasn’t moved on as much as we may have thought, the final shot of him still wearing her scarf from all those years ago. He never forgot her. This shot was very similar to the final shot in La La Land yet presents an entirely different message, here she has moved on, and he is somewhat stuck in the past. This is one of the finest films of 2021, and I did not expect to love this as much as I did. This is a fantastic debut and is a film that gets me actively excited for Swift’s next visual work.
All Too Well: The Short Film