Altitude Film Distribution has secured UK rights from Protagonist Pictures to well-received Toronto title Beast, written and directed by former Screen Star Of Tomorrow Michael Pearce.

The psychological thriller centres on a small island community, where a troubled young woman falls for a mysterious outsider who empowers her to escape her oppressive family.

When he comes under suspicion for a series of brutal murders she defends him at all costs and learns what she is capable of.

The film is headlined by rising star Jessie Buckley (Taboo), who plays the young woman, alongside Johnny Flynn (Clouds of Sils Maria), Geraldine James (45 Years), Charley Palmer Rothwell (Dunkirk) and Trystan Gravelle (Mr Selfridge).

30West secured the US rights to the film following its Toronto premiere.

The deal was struck between Ellie Gibbons, Altitude Film Distribution’s acquisitions and development manager and Vanessa Saal, Protagonist’s managing director of sales & distribution.

The acquisition marks the fourth deal between Altitude Films and sales outfit Protagonist Pictures in the last year, following The Rider, The Florida Project and Lady Macbeth.

Developed and backed by Film4 and the BFI, Beast producers are Stray Bear Films’ Ivana MacKinnon (The Scouting Book for Boys) and Lauren Dark (War Book), and Kristian Brodie (Next Goal Wins) for Agile Films. 

Film4’s Sam Lavender, the BFI’s Natascha Wharton, Agile Films’ Myles Payne and David Staniland, and David Kosse all serve as executive producers on the feature. 

Pearce’s debut will receive its UK premiere at the 61st BFI London Film Festival on 7 October, where it has been selected for the LFF’s First Feature Competition and Pearce is also one of three finalists for second IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award, given in association with the BFI.

The film will be Altitude’s tenth film in the London lineup. Other titles include The Florida Project, Loveless, Loving Vincent, A Prayer Before Dawn, The Rider, Sicilian Ghost Story, My Friend Dahmer, The Boy Downstairs and Ghost Stories (distributed by Lionsgate, represented by Altitude Film Sales).

Altitude’s Co-CEO and Chairman Will Clarke said: “We are incredibly excited at Altitude to be releasing Beast in the UK. From Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn’s stunning performances to Michael Pearce’s confident direction, Beast represents everything that we look for in a film; it is smart, stylish, distinctive and has a huge breakout potential.

“We’re also delighted to be working once again with Vanessa, Dave and the Protagonist team after the success we enjoyed with Lady Macbeth’s acclaimed reception and global roll-out.”

Protagonist’s CEO Dave Bishop commented: “We could not be happier to be working again with Will and his dedicated, creative and passionate team. We’re very proud to represent Michael Pearce’s exceptional debut feature and feel that Beast is in very good hands with our friends at Altitude.”