Swifties Explain: “All Too Well”

Photo from NYPost.com

By now, everyone’s seen or at least heard enough about Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” short film, but did you catch all of the subtle nods she put in her new song and video? Swifties are known for having to analyze and pick apart every last detail the singer provides, so luckily all of the hard work has already been done. VALLEY has compiled a list of things you might’ve missed about the 10-minute version and its accompanying short film!

The New Lyrics

Fans of Swift immediately recognized the change in music behind Swift’s vocals, but the real surprise came at the first new verse. Mere moments into the new lines, Swift says, “F*** the patriarchy,” adding even more of a shock factor to the new version. The rest of the verse sees Swift comparing the end of her relationship to death when she sings:

‘Til we were dead and gone and buried / Check the pulse and come back swearin’ it’s the same / After three months in the grave / And then you wondered where it went to as I reached for you / But all I felt was shame and you held my lifeless frame

The following addition is another moment fans can’t stop talking about. Swift, known for her poignant and hard-hitting one-liners, snuck in, “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath,” suggesting her lover saw her as something to hide, while she was ready for so much more (even going as far as using the word “oath,” commonly associated with wedding vows).

It’s no secret that the song is about Jake Gyllenhaal; the singer has never denied it, and the time frame lines up perfectly. The real speculation, however, comes from the song’s fourth verse. After the song’s first hint at the couple’s age difference — which is 9 years, by the way — Swift mentions an actress consoling her at a party.

The idea you had of me, who was she? / A never-needy, ever-lovely jewel whose shine reflects on you / Not weepin’ in a party bathroom / Some actress askin’ me what happened, you / That’s what happened, you

Fans think the unnamed actress could be Jennifer Aniston after uncovering a 2011 article that claims Aniston comforted Swift following the publicizing of her breakup with Gyllenhaal. Swift goes on to mention waiting for her lover to show up to her 21st birthday, which has shed an entirely new light on another song on the album: “22.”

The final change comes in the form of the last verse and brand new outro, in which Swift subtly accuses her lover of predatory tendencies, saying that as she gets older, “[his] lovers stay [her] age.” She also juxtaposes the “barren cold” after their relationship’s end and the “first fall of snow” when they were happy, exiting the song on a solemn — yet resolute — note.

Short Film Casting

There’s much to unpack within “All Too Well: The Short Film.” Easter eggs aside, Swift made a lot of filmmaking decisions to complement her lyrics’ storytelling. Arguably the most important choice was the casting. At the beginning of their relationship (which the song is about), Swift was 20 and Gyllenhaal was 29; with the 10-minute version of “All Too Well,” it is clear that Swift feels she was taken advantage of in her youth.

The music video depicts their relationship as played by Sadie Sink, 19, and Dylan O’Brien, 30. Fans have been quick to point out that though the glaring 11-year age difference is an obvious allusion to Swift’s and Gyllenhaal’s, it’s also important to note the media’s perception of the pair.

Sink got her big break in acting when she joined the cast of “Stranger Things.” The world grew to love her as 13-year-old Max Mayfield, a new addition to the beloved group of kids on the popular Netflix show. Though Sink is an adult now, many are not used to thinking of her as such.

O’Brien has been in the limelight since his starring role in “Teen Wolf,” which premiered in 2011. Audiences got to know him as quirky teenage sidekick Stiles Stilinski, and has since seen him playing characters that have aged along with him.

To pop culture, while O’Brien isn’t by any means old, he’s certainly too far into adulthood to be dating someone at Sink’s age. It’s for this reason that the audience feels uncomfortable watching the two be affectionate in the short film. Swift wanted to convey that feeling, highlighting just how inappropriate her relationship was, and how that made her heartbreak that much more raw.

Easter Eggs

Many eagle-eyed Swifties are sharing their discoveries on social media, especially TikTok and Twitter.

Fans are on the edge of their seats about which album Swift will rerelease next: “Speak Now” or “1989.” @igetmysitfied on TikTok is sure she’s found sufficient evidence pointing toward “Speak Now,” and others added to that theory with her performance on “Saturday Night Live.”

Swift also showed support for her fans discussing the music video on Twitter by liking their tweets. @sippingaugust was one of the first to realize that the chapter titles of the music video alluded to Swift’s character becoming a published author at the end.

TikTok users @a_sticker and @intheswingoverthecreek think Swift may have been hinting at a real-life book release with that scene. The video says it’s been 13 years since the events of the relationship, but Swift’s 21st birthday was only about 11 years ago.

Furthermore, @awfulmichael pointed out the lighting design of one scene, in which Sink’s character is warmly lit while O’Brien’s is backed by a cool blue. @strugglesaurus astutely noticed Sink’s character mourning their relationship while wearing the same flannel seen on O’Brien earlier in the story.

Oscar Eligibility

Fans of Swift have joked about the singer deserving an Academy Award for her short film (and spiting the actor ex-boyfriend the song is about), but some out there don’t find that idea all too ridiculous. In his TikTok, user @ehluxb runs through the requirements a short film must fulfill in order to be eligible for an Oscar nomination, and — you guessed it — “All Too Well” checks all the boxes!

Share with us any details you noticed in “All Too Well” by tweeting us, @VALLEYmag, on Twitter!


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