In a post drought-apocalypse USA, people would literally kill for water. Ernest Holm lives with his son Jerome and daughter Mary in their small town house and field. While everybody has left, Ernest stays, believing that the land will grow once more if only there's irrigation. Ernest gets water for his family by trading supplies with the 'water people' who extract water from deep wells. When his mule breaks its legs and he has to kill it, Ernest goes to the auction and buys a robotic carrier machine to replace it, beating the offers of Flem, a young man who's been seeing Mary without his consent. Ernest rejects Flem's offer to rent the machine. One morning Ernest finds his machine is missing, and he goes looking for it. When he gets to the water people, Ernest is accused of stealing. He wins a fight with the water people's leader Caleb and takes his knife.
Continuing on, he finds his machine and Flem with it, transporting a supply of water. Flem is taking it somewhere. Ernest takes Flem tied up but he soon gets weary due to refusing to take a drink from the water they're carrying. Flem, wanting to continue his smuggling run, then throws a bottle at Ernest killing him. Time went by, the people found and buried Ernest, but the machine has gone missing. Flem marries Mary after helping the family build an irrigation system thus saving their farm. But the machine, limping and mangled, didn't shut down, and its default protocol makes it walk to a store in town. The store owner reaches Jerome in the Holm residence, informing about the machine. After tricking his way to town over border patrol, Jerome gets to the store to find the store owner has repaired the machine.
Jerome gets interested to the machine's laser sensor. It turns out the sensor can behave like a video recorder. Curious about the machine's adventure, Jerome plays the recording and finds the truth about Flem and Ernest. Arriving home before Flem, Jerome picks on him as how did the machine find its way home. Flem lies further, which only infuriates Jerome even more. But he doesn't take any action. One day Flem goes on a supply run with the machine, and accidentally falls into a pit, breaking his legs. As he cries for help, Jerome, who has been secretly following him, comes at the pit's mouth. As Jerome only stands there, Flem realizes that Jerome already knows about what happened to Ernest. Flem tries to talk his way into Jerome's mercy. Eventually Jerome shoots him in the head, and decides not to tell anything, even about Ernest, to Mary.
The story lives up to the movie's tag-line well enough. Yet it takes too much time in building up the significant characters, which are only confined to the four faces shown on the poster. The other characters are then only act to complete the story's angles here and there. The plot flows at a medium pace, although the depicted desert and drought mood and also the plenty long panoramic shots might give the illusion of a slower pace. It thus can feel somewhat boring at the first few minutes.
The post apocalyptic world is depicted nicely. Insertion of futuristic technology is just at the enough dose as to point out how far has the technology develops. Yet it's not being too overwhelming as too take away the focus from the drought problem. Also, besides the mule machine that is a central part of the story, the other technologies depicted only sport a nicer look and doesn't really interfere with the story.
The acting is a good in overall for me. Michael Shannon is an experienced actor who has no difficulty portraying Ernest's hard and strict character, which almost a signature in almost all of Shannon's role. Kodi Smit-McPhee quite surprisingly manages to act out the boy forced by situation to mature up faster than he expected. Nicholas Hoult played nicely the persistent rebellious youngster character of Flem. While she played it quite well, Elle Fanning's role sadly only serves as a complimentary dramatizing addition to the main plot.
Young Ones deserve a 6 out of 10 score for me. A recommendation is quite a so-so from me, due to there are better movies in cinemas at the time of its release. It tells a decent story combining the currently popular dystopia post-apocalyptic settings with the age old revenge plot.