Young Ones

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Young Ones Movie Poster Image
Downbeat, futuristic sci-fi has uneven story, characters.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Mostly a story of victims, violence, and revenge. But the setting -- a future in which water is scarce -- is worth discussing. What would happen if water became scarce and the government started controlling it?

Positive Role Models & Representations

The characters are either violent, selfish, and vindictive, or they're victims. One character (mostly) tries to be a good person, but he's killed. Even the most sympathetic character acts mainly out of revenge.


Characters are shot and killed, with blood splatters. One character is killed with a rock to the head; he lies bleeding for a while before dying. Some fighting and punching, and a knife is introduced into a fight. A donkey breaks its leg and must be shot (the break is shown, but the shot happens off screen). A baby is sold on the black market, and the baby's father is shot through the stomach, with a spurt of blood. General tension in the air, and characters argue frequently.


A young woman is pregnant. She and her boyfriend take a shower together (close-up, nothing sensitive shown) and are shown kissing. Minor innuendo.


Several uses of "f--k," plus a few uses of "s--t" and "bulls--t," as well as "hell," "piss," and "goddamn."


Coca-Cola is shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The father is referred to as someone with a drinking problem. In a few scenes, he falls off the wagon and drinks hard liquor from a bottle. He delivers several bottles to the water workers, who also like to sit and drink and get drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Young Ones is a revenge-driven, futuristic sci-fi movie set in a world where water is scarce. It's pretty violent; characters are shot and killed (blood spurts are shown), and one is killed with a rock to the head. A baby is sold on the black market, and characters fight and argue. Language includes several uses of "f--k" and a few uses of "s--t." Elle Fanning's character is pregnant, and she's seen kissing and showering with her boyfriend (nothing sensitive shown). One of the characters is said to have a drinking problem; he drinks hard liquor in a few scenes. Several other characters also drink heavily. Teen sci-fi fans will be interested, as will fans of the three younger stars -- Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

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What's the story?

In the future, water is extremely scarce, and a farming family led by Ernest Holm (Michael Shannon) struggles to survive. He makes a living delivering supplies to the men who work for a huge company, routing water to bigger corporate farms. Ernest tries to strike a deal, but fails. Meanwhile, his daughter, Mary (Elle Fanning), is secretly seeing Flem Lever (Nicholas Hoult); Flem has ambitious plans that include stealing the family's robotic mule and could even involve murder. It falls to Ernest's son, Jerome (Kodi Smit McPhee), to discover the truth and set things right.

Is it any good?

Writer/director Jake Paltrow (Gwyneth's brother) comes up with an intriguing setting for YOUNG ONES: a futuristic farmland in which water has become the top commodity. Details include government-issued food packs and washing dishes with dirt. Like the superior Mad Max and The Rover, it's not so far out that it seems irrelevant. But into this backdrop he plunks a tired old crime story about an interloping stranger who fools almost everyone with his deceptive charms, adding nothing fresh to it.

The balance is all off. Flem seems outright villainous at all times, making Mary unsympathetic. Then Jerome becomes far too crafty far too quickly. A would-be romance is added and forgotten, and the fascination with the robot donkey never really pays off. Perhaps worst of all, there's no real connection between the characters' interactions and the futuristic setting. What happens to them has little to do with water. Overall, Young Ones is a bit of a drip.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Young Onesviolence. How shocking/bloody is it? Does the violence seem to arise from existing tension, or does it come from nowhere?

  • Which character has a drinking problem? How bad is it? When he drinks, does he drink for pleasure, or for some other purpose? Are there realistic consequences?

  • What can we learn from stories about the future? What is good or bad about this future? How can we prepare for it?

  • What do you think might happen if water became scarce and the government started controlling it, favoring large, corporate farms over smaller, individual farmers? How could this be prevented? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

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