The Daily Stream: Taylor Swift's All Too Well Is All Too Powerful

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Film: "All Too Well: The Short Film"

Where You Can Stream It: YouTube

The Pitch: Taylor Swift is one of the biggest pop stars on the planet and has been for some time. At the rate we're going, she may end up being the undisputed champion of pop music before it's all said and done. Currently, Swift has been on a unique mission, re-recording all of her old albums. Not for vanity's sake, mind you. Rather, she is taking ownership of her work. Most artists don't truly own their work, record companies do. In Swift's case, her first several albums were owned by her former label, Big Machine Music, and sold to the highest bidder, music manager Scooter Braun. As anyone with even a passing familiarity knows, the music business is not kind to artists, and if someone as powerful as Swift can get boned out of owning her masters even when she was willing to pay the price, imagine what happens to the little guy.

Swift is using a pretty big loophole since she owns the songs as the writer, just not the recordings, and is now painstakingly recapturing those albums and releasing them as "Taylor's Version" editions. It's a kind of amazing exercise in artistic autonomy at the highest level. Most recently, the Grammy winner released her new version of "Red," perhaps her most defining and beloved album. To go along with it, Swift decided to step into the director's chair and release a short film for the new, extended version of her fan-favorite track "All Too Well."

This goes far beyond a mere marketing stunt to help pump up album sales. Rather, Swift gets personal as a filmmaker to deliver a brief but powerful look at love gone wrong, which is largely what her brilliant masterstroke of a pop song has always been. Now? She's delivered a short film worthy of that song's excellence, which is no small thing. Even for those who aren't necessarily fans of Swift's music, this is a truly gripping and gut-wrenching look at the universal emotion we call love.

Why It's Essential Viewing

Not everyone likes pop music, and that's fair. I don't like country music (generally speaking) and millions of people do. But love is a truly ubiquitous feeling and there is a reason music critics and fans alike fell in love with "All Too Well," as it's a painfully honest look at heartbreak that feels so intimate and raw. Yes, the song is allegedly about a very famous actor that Swift had a relationship with. I'm not going to bother with that here because that's not the point. The point is, the feelings that she felt during that break-up were very real and captured on "Red," with "All Too Well" serving as the magnum opus of that album.

With the short film, one of the most famous people in the world has offered an even more intimate window into those emotions, with Dylan O'Brien ("Teen Wolf") and Sadie Sink ("Stranger Things") starring as the couple at the center of this thing that was a masterpiece until it got torn up. Both actors fully commit to the narrative in a way that is downright admirable, as their performances make the viewer feel what they're feeling, so much so that it truly gets to you at points. I understand the line "You call me up again just to break me like a promise" more thoroughly — and I almost wish I didn't. This is not a glorified music video. This is a genuinely impressive, raw piece of filmmaking from Swift who genuinely crafts a stirring love story on screen, brief as it may be. Though the short film format helps with the whole whirlwind romance aspect of the whole thing.

Purely Good Filmmaking

"All Too Well: The Short Film" is going to be essential viewing for fans of Taylor Swift. I'm not here to convince any Swifties to watch it because they surely have already. I'm here to sway anyone rolling their eyes at the notion. People who love film and might think that a pop star directing a short film about one of her popular, re-recorded songs is filled with hubris or something of the like. I'm here to tell you that isn't the case. This is an artist who has a lot to say and has managed to do so in a medium we didn't know that she could do it in. It's two great actors giving genuinely stellar performances. It's filmmaking as a craft firing on all cylinders. The fact that it happens to be tied to a masterpiece of a pop song, written and directed by the writer of that song, one of the most famous people alive, makes it all the more fascinating.

Plain and simple, this is a gorgeous, devastating, affective piece of filmmaking that has the capacity to surprise those who aren't involved in this artist's work. I have no doubt that it works like gangbusters for those who already love the work, but this love letter to heartbreak deserves respect and appreciation because it's real, universal, and genuine. This can't be faked. And if that last shot doesn't get you right in the feelings bone, we are not the same.