Young love on the run closes Cannes race with 'Mud'
Cannes moored up on the Mississippi on Saturday with "Mud", a Huckleberry Finn-like tale about two boys, a fugitive, and the search for true love that wrapped up the race for the Palme d'Or.
Set in a richly-evoked American south of makeshift houseboats and hardscrabble lives, the coming-of-age story by US director Jeff Nichols is one of 22 films racing for the Riviera festival's top award.
It tells of two teenaged boys, 14-year-old Ellis and Neckbone played by real-life southerners Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland, who stumble across a man hiding out on an island in the middle of the river, who gives his name as Mud.
Shaggy-haired, dirty, but ultimately unthreatening, the character played by Matthew McConaughey has set up camp in a boat marooned in a treetop by a flood, and which they had hoped to claim as their own.
Hard-up for supplies, Mud strikes a deal with the kids: bring him food to survive in hiding and when he moves on, the boat -- and his pistol -- will be theirs.
Soon enough his story comes out: hopelessly in love with a childhood sweetheart who is unable to commit to him, he shot dead one of her lovers after he savagely beat her, and now has both police and bounty hunters on his tracks.
Moved by the story -- all the more since he is in the throes of first love and his parents' marriage is on the rocks -- Ellis sets his heart on reuniting Mud and his beloved Juniper, played by southern belle Reese Witherspoon.
But the victim's thuggish relatives and their gang of hired guns have the pair in their sights as well.
Nichols told a press conference before the movie's evening premiere he wanted to tell a story about "unrequited love" as well as conjure a southern way of life that was in danger of dying out in increasingly conformist America.
The 33-year-old director joked that he "stole" ruthlessly from Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn", whose boy heros Huck and Tom Sawyer meet the slave character Jim on an island in the Mississippi.
"I stole things from Mark Twain," he said, explaining he had been haunted since childhood by a scene in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" where Tom takes a nap on a sandbank.
"Mark Twain really was able to encapsulate what it was like to be a child growing up on the Mississippi river," added the director, who made the books required reading for his young stars.
"Yeah, me and Tye got to read Huck Finn on the set," Lofland confirmed. "And we found a lot of stuff that happened to wander onto the script -- we did question Jeff on that one!"
© 2012 AFP