Taylor Alison Swift is known by countless titles. The singer, songwriter, movie star, TV actress, performer, and director wears many hats.Today, however, we’re focusing on Swift’s directorial side, namely the new music video for her fan favorite song, All Too Well. And no, we’re not going to talk about the actor that inspired the song or the video (Okay, we said that but I swear that’s it!)
Taylor Swift’s directorial debut was with the music video for her bop I’m Only Me When I’m With You in 2008 at the young age of 18. Since then, Swift has directed 12 other music videos for her songs either alone or with the help of other directors. She has also directed one of her documentaries, folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions in which she performs every title off of her surprise quarantine album folklore. Her works contain various elements from fantastical ideas to full on belly laughs to lonely heartbreak. All Too Well earns a spot in the heartbreak category, and it is arguably her most impressive directing feat to date.
Why, you ask? Clocking in at 14 minutes and 55 seconds, the music video reads more of a short film than anything else. Somehow, having the lyrics play and take over most moments where dialogue would normally be present doesn’t take away from it in any way. Probably because the lyrics are so powerful that they stand alone. However, there is some banter sans music between lead actors Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien that only adds to the experience. If there was any song of Swift’s that deserves a lengthy video with beautiful performances from impressive talent, it’s this track. Visually, the entire runtime has a stunning appearance and feels reminiscent of “the good old days” which fits the entire vibe of the song and the video’s message. It almost feels like you’re watching intimate home video of a young couple’s trials and tribulations.
Sadie Sink has grown a ton since Stranger Things, and this video feels like her first chance to be the mature, brilliant actress that she has become. And she did not pass up that opportunity. Instead, Sink fully threw herself into the role in a way no other actors could. To say that Sink may be one of the best up and coming actresses out there would not be generous, but honest. Audiences channel every emotion that she portrays seamlessly. Since Sink’s role is of Swift at that age, it’s clear that Swift must have provided tons of inspiration for Sink to work with to make the role her own, and it works on every level.
It’s no surprise that Dylan O’Brien is a heartthrob among numerous fans. The actor has a swagger and talent that is unmatched and he steals the screen whenever he appears, especially in this video. O’Brien channels an emotionally abusive boyfriend but viewers will love to hate him. The chemistry he has with Sink is magnetic and palpable. While giving props to Swift as a director is necessary, it’s evident that Sink and O’Brien have made her job much easier with their natural acting that shines on screen.
While the film follows the story laid out by the song, it also runs viewers through the ebbs and flows of a tumultuous relationship without skipping a beat. By doing this, Swift not only engages anyone who views the video, but also pays homage to a track that fans have embraced throughout the years by making the story come to life on screen. Fans will also be thrilled and unsurprised by the many Easter eggs that are sprinkled throughout the short film, further engaging her audiences and leading them to watch every moment with curiosity.
Swift has stated in interviews that most listeners have someone that pops into their head when All Too Well plays, and it’s true. For me, it’s my long term abusive relationship that I just couldn’t shake, even long after it ended and the dust settled. Personally, when I watched the music video starring O’Brien and Sink, I saw that relationship in numerous shots. Even Swift in the final shots exudes pain from fully trusting someone only to have that taken for granted. Each character forms connections with listeners and viewers, and isn’t that what watching movies is all about? These elements all work as well as they do because of Swift’s impeccable directing style that meshes so wonderfully with her relatable lyrics.
So what do we hope for Taylor Swift, the director, going forward? A simple ask would be that Swift direct more—if not all—of her videos. Why? Because it’s been made very clear that no one can do Taylor Swift quite like Taylor Swift (besides maybe Blake Lively, who understood the assignment with I Bet You Think About Me). Besides that, is it possible that audiences can one day expect to see feature films or limited series directed by Swift? After all, it is Taylor Swift’s world and we’re just living in it, so why not?