A hot young cast, a dystopian future and a sci-fi angle may be the selling points of Jake Paltrow’s pioneering epic… but the new Hunger Games this isn’t.
Instead, Paltrow’s feature, shot in the sweltering mountainous heat of South Africa is a Western in the tradition of the old style of treacherous landscapes, child brides and violent men. Except the cow is a robot…
Set in a future where water is scarce, Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon), his son Jerome (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and daughter Mary (Elle Fanning) trade in alcohol with the help of their robo-donkey, while trying to convince local contractors to provide irrigation to their once-fertile, now arid land, so they can grow crops and begin a new life.
Meanwhile, wilful Mary has begun a relationship with bad boy Flem (Nicholas Hoult, sneering, sexy and channelling Lee Van Cleef) whose plans aren’t so wholesome.
Distinctively dusty (Fanning using sand to wash the dishes is a chokingly dry image), bleak and brutal, Young Ones feels less for, err, young ones than an older new-western audience; its romance doomed, its protagonists forced to grow up in suffering while sci-fi elements (the robot cow, the exoskeleton Shannon’s paraplegic wife is fitted with) blend comfortably against the red/brown landscape.
Slow and unrelenting, expertly performed and extremely stylish, Young Ones couldn’t be further from Cowboys Vs Aliens, and could well set a new generation searching out John Ford and Sergio Leone.