Whether it’s a Krypton fascist, an ice-blooded hitman, or a conflicted Prohibition-era G-man, Michael Shannon is accustomed to playing menacing. But in Young Ones, the new dystopian sci-fi Western that premiered at Sundance in January, he gets to show another side.
“People are used to seeing Mike play very intense, dangerous characters, but I think he’s much more of a classic movie star than maybe people even realize,” director Jake Paltrow said before the film’s premiere. “I think what you’ll see in Mike is a warmth that maybe you haven’t seen in a lot of things—in this, he’s a flawed man who loves his children so much and is sort of trying to do anything he can to ensure their survival.”
The problem is water, or the lack of it. Two decades or so in the future, water is scarce and drought has scorched the American west, where a family has stubbornly stayed behind with the hopes of revitalizing their farm—if Shannon’s Ernest can persuade the industrial drillers in the nearby mountains to run a water-line to his place. Elle Fanning plays his rebellious daughter, who falls for a rebel on a motorcycle (Nicholas Hoult) who wants some of the same things Ernest does. Crown prince of the dystopian cinematic future, Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road), plays Ernest’s loyal but distant son. “The core of the movie—at least in the beginning—is really this friendship between this father and son,” said Paltrow.
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