yam’s review published on Letterboxd:
A perfume ad for the A24 crowd. Ever since 'Miss Americana' made her relevant again, Swift has been plaguing the film world with her godawful vanity projects that are disguised as reflections from a down to earth woman, when they really only serve the purpose of exaggerating how distanced she really is from everybody else. I will be honest, I cannot stand Swift as a singer, not that she is bad, but I just find any mainstream folk singer inherently insufferable. Plodding songs without any depth, with glacial pacing despite saying no more than the typical Spice Girl record, I cannot differentiate one from the next, even if I tried. To be honest, I watched this with no knowledge of Swift's involvement, all I saw was 5* reviews of this thing (I refuse to call is a film) swarming my feed, and that at the time of writing, this is the highest rated work on this site. Well, knowing this and only this, I spent the entire thankfully short (but still overlong) runtime baffled. How could such an incompetent work with so little flavour or artistic merit be so widely acclaimed? Then 'directed by Taylor Swift' appears on screen and of course this has been met with rapturous applause, because a low rating would imply to her toxic fanbase that she is capable of directing something shit, that she is not some sort of martyr. Well guess what, this is shit and she is pretty f**king far from being a martyr.
For being called 'All Too Well,' ironically, nothing is done particularly well here. There is a narrative, but it isn't self-standing; every edit is perfectly in sync with the music, for that is all that matters, the songs, exaggerating the fact that this is not a short film but a music video. The songs themselves, well, I have already stated that they are not the type that tend to appeal to me, yet even with my limited knowledge of folk I know that what is being sung here is utter bullocks. Her rhymes are equivalent to what a 7 year old would write, using random words that sound similar instead of considering their context. Some work rather well, others do not. The instrumentals are rather ugly, all playing at the same key, aiming to be bittersweet and tender, but ultimately coming across as nauseating, cloying, sentimental, irritating, and just misconceived. Yet, maybe I am not the best person to talk about this, after all, her songs seem to work for most people, and I am rather out of touch in the conversation of the modern indie music scene, yet the problem with the music is not singularly that it is bad, but that it makes this abomination even worse.
The aim for 'All Too Well' is to come across as an indie film, focusing on a millionaires idea of mundanity, lensed with a grain filter to make it feel more 'authentic' (I don't care if this was actually shot on film, because it still looks artificial). However, to Swift, an independent film is nothing more than an aesthetic. Shots of landscapes, middle class people who are not smiling at social events, what she isn't aware of is the fact that there is more to a good film of this sort than that. There must be passion, emotion, a tight screenplay, half-decent acting, or anything to latch onto; here, she relies completely on her compositions. Yet, indie films do not have this kind of over-manufactured soundtrack, both as a matter of the fact that it does not fit, and the fact that it is not vaguely cinematic. For whilst the likes of Baumbach and Coppola allow their cameras to linger, so does the directors of television commercials. Car ads, perfume ads, they all aim to distract the fact that nothing is happening on screen by showing you as much unchallenging imagery as possible, and upon this, they often feature a harmless, folk song playing in the background. Watching 'All Too Well,' I could not escape the thought that this felt like it was trying to sell me a perfume or something of the sort, not once did it succeed in its ambitions at naturalism, never did it achieve its aim of even feeling like a film.
Apparently this work is based off of Swift's real relationship, yet whilst this should come across as making me admire her for her honesty, all I do is dislike her more for her arrogance. The amount of self-pity that is on display here is insufferable, depicting the relationship as toxic when it is anything but. People fall out of love, that is fine, yet there is so much loathing on display here, so much contempt targeted towards the male figure, and I just don't understand why. No physical abuse, no verbal abuse. A handful of arguments, none spiral out of hand, none particularly hostile. One or two selfish acts, yet that goes for both. He is certainly not a great partner, but nor is she. Both are over-reliant on each other, and both are manipulative. There is no chemistry between them, even in their moments of intimacy, they feel disconnected.
Also, this is bland, really, really bland. It is almost funny at times to watch Swift attempting to show what life is like for people less privileged than her, showing the two leads' lives as if they were characters from Narnia or something, but no, I couldn't bring myself to laugh because I was so, very bored. We have two unlikeable, paper thin characters, prancing around pleasant, but soullessly captured scenery. This is everything that I try to avoid from films, this is the exact kind of pretentious, repetitive dull filmmaking that gives actual thoughtful indies a bad name. Honest to God, do not watch this, life is short, and wasting your time on something as short as this is still flushing 15 minutes down the toilet. I feel bad for wasting my time watching this, and I feel bad that, by viewing this, I contributed to Swift's crusade of narcissism. Please, never make a film again. I beg of you, stay in the music world where your arrogance does not leak into the realms of the moving image, because boy was this insufferable and I cannot wait until the day that she finally becomes a relic of the past.