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Magnolia Pictures has acquired North American rights to “Little Joe,” a sci-fi drama that won the Cannes Film Festival’s best actress award for star Emily Beecham. The indie studio is planning a theatrical release for later this year.

“Little Joe” centers on Alice (Beecham), a single mother and dedicated plant breeder at a corporation engaged in developing new species. In that role, she creates a special crimson flower, one that is beautiful and emits a scent that induces happiness. One day, Alice violates company policy by taking the plant home as a gift for her teenage son, Joe. As it grows, Alice becomes suspicious that her creation may do more harm than good. In a positive review out of Cannes, where the film premiered, Variety’s Owen Gleiberman called “Little Joe” the “‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ for the age of antidepressants.”

The film is the English-language feature debut of director Jessica Hausner (“Lourdes”) and also stars Ben Whishaw (“Spectre”).

“Jessica Hausner has concocted an incredibly unnerving feature, with a stunner of a performance by Emily Beecham,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles in a statement. “’Little Joe’ is a terrifically executed film that is terrifying in its plausibility.”

“Knowing their reputation and stunning portfolio, I’m delighted that ‘Little Joe’ will be released by Magnolia,” said Hausner in a statement. “I feel in good company there with some of the most daring directors I know. Now I am really curious to see how US audiences will react to this film which was partly inspired by classic American sci-fi movies.” 

The film was written by Hausner and Géraldine Bajard. It’s a Coop99, The Bureau, and Essential Films production supported by the Austrian Film Institute, FISA, British Film Institute, ORF (Film/Television Agreement), BBC Films, Eurimages, Filmfonds Wien, Bayrischer Rundfunk, Arte, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, Land Niederösterreich. The film was produced by Bruno Wagner, Bertrand Faivre, Philippe Bober, Martin Gschlacht, Jessica Hausner and Gerardine O’Flynn.

Coproduction Office served as the international sales agent. The deal was negotiated by Magnolia SVP of Acquisitions John Von Thaden with CAA Media Finance representing the filmmakers.