We don’t know for sure if it’s a consequence of the times we live in, but the filmmakers’ taste for dystopias is more and more evident. Marshall Leming is one of the filmmakers who approach this genre totally, in the sense that he doesn’t use the conventions of this genre just to give the audience a shot of adrenaline. In fact, the great quality of ‘Sawyer’ lies in the way it manages to capture a veracious social universe that synthesizes some universal anxieties. More precisely, the director tackles in his project both a political and an ecological dystopia that will satisfy the tastes of a varied audience. We are, in other words, in front of a short film that takes the dynamism of a feature like “Mad Max”, but its delicate ideological debates remind us of Margaret Atwood’s novels – especially the “MaddAddam” trilogy. But beyond these structural components, the real magnetism of the project lies in the emotional connections that lead the members of the Rebellion to act against the dictators. Let’s not forget that any quality dystopia is, in fact, a parable about human nature and, implicitly, about how social dysfunctions can lead the entire planet to disaster.


In a totalitarian state that has most likely experienced a nuclear disaster, electricity is rationed, and people live on the edge of subsistence in a permanent state of fear. Sawyer, a young woman whose father used to be a mechanic and inventor, could make a change. But for this to become a reality, she needs the help of some “rebels”.


This narrative structure is largely familiar, as Marshall Leming repeats a pattern depicting the tensions between the individual and society. But what is captivating is, on the one hand, the authenticity (or even actuality!) of the central issue and, on the other hand, the cinematic quality that gives us engaging action and some memorable characters. It is more than obvious that we are dealing with an experienced director who knows not only how to manipulate all the possibilities of cinematic language but also how to dose the progression of his project well enough to obtain a product that is both mainstream and highly consistent at an ideational level. Perhaps at the end of the short film, many viewers will feel the need for a sequel. But even in this form, ‘Sawyer’ already has the necessary ingredients to provide a fetching experience.


For the veracity of this (post)apocalyptic nightmare, for the diversity and magnetism of its characters, but also for its cinematic quality, ‘Sawyer’ was awarded with the 2nd Film of the Month distinction in the September 2022 edition of TMFF.