Why Taylor Swift Fans Think 'The Manuscript' Is About Finding Closure on Jake Gyllenhaal Romance After 'All Too Well'

Here's a breakdown of the most-telling lyrics from the song, which seemingly recounts Swift's relationship with Gyllenhaal and finding closure with the 'All Too Well' short film

<p>Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty; Dave Benett/WireImage</p>

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty; Dave Benett/WireImage

Taylor Swift is reflecting on past heartbreaks with her new album The Tortured Poets Department, and the closing track “The Manuscript” is among the most poignant.

While much of the album seemingly recounts Swift’s previous relationships with actor Joe Alwyn and Matty Healy (as well as, on a happier note, her current relationship with Travis Kelce), fans believe “The Manuscript” may actually be about Jake Gyllenhaal, whom she dated briefly in 2010.

As fans have decoded the song, they have noted that the lyrics seem to reference various aspects of the autumn romance that Swifties have long felt inspired her hit breakup ballad “All Too Well.” (The singer has never confirmed who the breakup ballad was written about.)

Notably, the bridge seems to reference how Swift was able to find healing when she re-recorded the song for Red (Taylor’s Version) and created the All Too Well short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O'Brien, which ends with her character turning the heartbreak into a bestselling book, aka a manuscript.

Read ahead for a lyrical breakdown of “The Manuscript” and why many believe it’s about Gyllenhaal.

Related: Everyone Taylor Swift Name-Drops on The Tortured Poets Department, from Charlie Puth to Stevie Nicks

"Now and then she re-reads the manuscript / Of the entire torrid affair"

<p>Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management</p> Taylor Swift performing All too Well

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Taylor Swift performing All too Well

Swift begins the song by noting how she sometimes goes back and reads the manuscript of the “torrid affair.” This could reference how Swift quite literally relives the story by singing “All Too Well” during the Eras Tour each night. Additionally, she previously referred to the relationship as a “love affair” in the lyrics for the 10-minute version of the song.

"They compared their licenses / He said, 'I'm not a donor but / I'd give you my heart if you needed it'"

As Swift continues with the first verse, she makes reference to her and her former lover comparing drivers licenses and making jokes about giving their hearts to each other. Taking car rides together is a major theme of “All Too Well”; she sings about them taking a trip to upstate New York together. Additionally, the 10-minute version of the song features the now-iconic lyric about her ex tossing her car keys (with that memorable "F--- the patriarchy" keychain).

"In the age of him, she wished she was thirty / And made coffee every morning in a French press"

<p>Taylor Swift/YouTube</p> A still from the All too Well short film

Taylor Swift/YouTube

A still from the All too Well short film

In this lyric, Swift seems to be calling out the nine-year age difference between her and Gyllenhaal, who was approaching 30 when they dated. An age gap is also addressed in the “All Too Well” 10-minute version (Swift sings, “You said if we had been closer in age, maybe it would've been fine / And that made me want to die") as well as in another song thought to be about Gyllenhaal, "I Bet You Think About Me," in which she pokes fun at an ex who was constantly acting superior to her due to her lack of culture (it memorably winds down with "Now you're out in the world, searchin' for your soul/ Scared not to be hip, scared to get old").

Meanwhile, the coffee lyric could be in reference to the viral paparazzi photos that showed them sipping on maple lattes in Brooklyn.

"Afterward, she only ate kids' cereal / And couldn't sleep unless it was in her mother's bed / Then she dated boys who were her own age"

In the following lyric, Swift sings about how she stopped trying to act more mature than her age to impress someone, and instead dated people her own age after her relationship with her older beau ended. Notably, after splitting from the actor, she dated Conor Kennedy, who is a few years younger than her, and Harry Styles, who is about four years younger than her.

"And the years passed like scenes of a show / The professor said to write what you know / Looking backwards might be the only way to move forward"

As with most Taylor Swift songs, the most striking lyrics appear in the bridge as she recounts slowly moving on from the relationship as the years went by, only to write about it again years later. This seems to be a nod to her re-recording the original song for Red (Taylor’s Version), while also releasing the 10-minute version of the song as a vault track.

"Then the actors were hitting their marks / And the slow dance was alight with the sparks"

<p>Taylor Swift/Youtube</p> A still from the All too Well short film

Taylor Swift/Youtube

A still from the All too Well short film

After making a quick reference to the years passing by like scenes of a show, Swift further hints at the All Too Well short film as she notes how “the actors were hitting their marks” and “the slow dance was alight with the sparks.” This seems to be a reference to the scene of Sink and O'Brien dancing in the kitchen in the refrigerator light during the short film, which Swift directed.

"And the tears fell in synchronicity with the score / And at last / She knew what the agony had been for"

These lyrics seem to indicate that reliving the relationship through the song and the short film helped to be cathartic in achieving closure. She also notes how her pain was turned into art that affected so many fans, noting that she finally realized what the “agony had been for.”

During the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022, Swift further opened up about creating the emotional short film, noting how it was initially really hard for her to perform the song live.

"I needed 10 years of sort of retrospect in order to know what I would even make to tell a version of that story visually,” she explained. “And I'm so grateful that I was able to do that with some crazy stroke of all these different twists of fate. I can't believe it."

"The only thing that's left is the manuscript / One last souvenir from my trip to your shores / Now and then I re-read the manuscript / But the story isn't mine anymore"

<p>Taylor Swift/Youtube</p> A still from the All Too Well short film

Taylor Swift/Youtube

A still from the All Too Well short film

Swift ends the song by indicating the story has gotten bigger than it ever was on the page. Swift has made similar comments like this when discussing “All Too Well,” specifically noting how her fans’ love for the song helped her overcome the pain that came from writing it.

"The most important thing about this particular project is that this is a song that would not be a special song in every setlist I do, in every single list where someone says, 'These are the best songs she's done’ — that was all because of you,” Swift told fans about the All Too Well short film at its N.Y.C. premiere. "A record label didn't pick this song as a single. We never made a video for it. This was a song that started out as a song on the album, just a simple track 5. And you went and turned it into what it is now.

“It started out as a song that was my favorite,” she continued. “It was about something very personal to me. It was hard to perform it live. Now, for me, honestly, this song is 100 percent about us, and for you."

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