CANNES, France -- The Cannes film festival on Saturday wrapped up the movies in competition, The Associated Press reports, wading deep in the Mississippi River with "Mud," a heart-wrenching, Mark Twain-influenced tale of a teenage boy searching for the meaning of life in a harsh world, and starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon.
"Mud" is proudly -- even blatantly -- inspired by the bard of the Mississippi. Stellar performances from 15-year-old Tye Sheridan and McConaughey separate it from a pack of films in competition set in the colorful American South.
Director David Nichols' third film was the culmination of a decade of effort. The 33-year-old managed to scrape enough money together thanks to the critical success of his previous two pictures: 2007's "Shotgun Stories," and last year's award-winning "Take Shelter."
The story of young Ellis on his search for a parental role model borrows from the sacrifice and friendship themes of Twain's classic "Huckleberry Finn," whose fatherless main character embarks on a Mississippi odyssey of self-discovery.
Nichols said Twain's bittersweet tales immortalizing the "mile-wide tide" of the Mississippi River have stayed with him since he first read them as a youth. He's unapologetic about the obvious influence: "If you're going to steal from someone, steal from someone really intelligent. And I stole from Mark Twain."
McConaughey plays the eponymous character, the woebegone Mud, who is hiding on a Mississippi island from vengeful bounty hunters after shooting a man in Texas. Madly in love with Witherspoon's unreliable, smoldering blond Juniper, he enlists the support of Ellis and his best friend to help win her love.
McConaughey's performance has wowed critics at the festival.
The Oscar-winning Witherspoon was born in Louisiana and took the relatively small role because it felt like home. "There are very few movies about the American South that are accurate," she said.