Johnny lives with his younger sister Jashaun on a reservation in South Dakota. They share the care of their alcoholic mother, but when Johnny makes plans to move away with his new girlfriend the siblings are forced to confront the possibility of entering a completely unknown future. Director Chloé Zhao spent four years immersing herself in the rugged, isolated beauty of one such reservation – set against the backdrop of the Badlands and the Great Plains of South Dakota – in order to explore the nihilistic impulse, over the chance to escape, that haunts the reservation's younger population. Reacting to her largely local cast's personal circumstances, Zhao approaches her narrative intuitively, stating her goal was 'to put the camera inside of [the characters]'. Drawing on her ambivalent feelings toward her own birthplace, Zhao's distinctive direction presents a slow-burning, quietly devastating elegy to the emotional pull of an inadequate, but familiar home.