By Chelsie Derman
Arts & Entertainment Editor
Taylor Swift is known for her storytelling. From her high school romance tale in “You Belong With Me” to her three-part “Teenage Love Triangle” with “Cardigan,” “August” and “Betty” (all songs from her eighth studio album, “Folklore''), her songs are always more than just melodies. Swift revises her beautifully-crafted songs yet again in “Red (Taylor’s Version),” which was released on Nov. 12.
Her self-directed short film, “All Too Well,” starring “Stranger Things” star Sadie Sink and “Maze Runner” star Dylan O’Brien, was released later the same day. By midnight, the video had already shot up to four million views.
So how good is the “All Too Well: The Short Film” really? A description can be boiled down to two words: charming and mystifying.
Is it actually a short film, or is it just your ordinary music video? The video’s advertised as a short film, but really, the “film” has two small segments of back-and-forth dialogue and the rest is just Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien happily in love, smiling at each other, kissing, as the camera goes in circles (at least until their love life goes sour). In other words: A stereotypical music video shot.
Perhaps the video isn’t worthy of the title “short film” with it only being 14 minutes long, but the video is impressive. Swift somehow took her five-minute song and stretched it to 10 minutes without losing any energy. The extra addition to the song, with all new lyrics, draws listeners in. No lyrics feel unnaturally added, which is the obvious risk when it comes to lengthening a track. But Swift knows what she’s doing. The track flows smoothly and is nice to listen to, from start to finish.
And of course the short film is admirable because of the famous — and talented — Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien. If Swift had just chosen a run-of-mill actors and actresses to star in her production, the film probably would not have been as good or as hyped. But Sink and O’Brien know how to act, and both of their names are all over the media. No wonder the short film immediately snatched viewers. With Sink and O’Brien’s performance on top of the song’s powerful lyrics, the short film is full of strong, remarkable emotion.
Sink and O’Brien are perfect for their roles. Sink shows a young Swift questioning her relationship, her innocence leaking out. O’Brien, on the other hand, may be a beloved actor to many, but in the short film he may make you hate him in a very short period of time. Because, yes: he’s that talented.
Why the short film had a whole premiere and is now playing for the whole week at AMC 13 theater in New York City, I have no idea.The short film feels more of a music video with talented performers. The film may be worthy of a rewatch on Youtube, but to watch in theaters is questionable. The short film does only run for 14 minutes, after all.
Now, does the complete “Red (Taylor’s Version)” compare well to Swift’s short film? The short answer: Yes.
“Red (Taylor’s Version)” has 30 tracks, which is a lot for an album. 10 tracks are Swift’s never-before-released songs (and that includes the elongated “All Too Well.”).
Swift’s notable radio top-hits like “I Knew You Were Trouble,” “22” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” are just how I remember them in this recording: catchy, fun, very pop. But I may have listened to them too much back in 2012, the songs overplayed both on the radio and on my iPod, to really appreciate the re-recordings as much. They’re still great upbeat songs that you can jam out during a road trip or on a dance floor but nothing really more than that.
Because Swift’s re-recordings of her previous “Red” songs sound pretty much the same and there’s not much to note, I will dive deeper into her newer music. And there are a few notable, eye-catching tracks.
“Run” features Ed Sheeran and has a nice beat with strong vocals. Swift and Sheeran have collaborated in the past (and also collaborated in Red (Taylor’s Version)’s “Everything Has Changed”), and the two voices blend nicely together to make a calming song.
“Better Man” is among the better tracks, with soothing guitar instrumentation behind the vocals. The song is more reminiscent of her country albums. “Come back… Be Here,” also has a nice, calming melody.
The other better songs from the album are “Message in a Bottle,” “The Very First Night,” “Girl at Home” and “I Bet You Think About Me.”
Other songs are slower and less attention-grabbing. Examples of these songs are “Ronan,” “Babe,” and “Forever Winter,” the three songs easily blending together and more forgettable on the first listen. But if you like Swift’s music, the songs may captivate you by the third or fourth listen.
“Red (Taylor’s Version)” is all about heartbreak. While it may take several listens to get into some of these many songs, it’s easy to appreciate Swift’s alluring lyrics.