November 01, 2018 at 10:00 AM EDT

Family dysfunction, an illicit affair, and maybe even murder. Alex Pettyfer’s directorial debut, Back Roads, promises to take viewers for a wild ride — and EW has an exclusive first look at the trailer.

Based on Tawni O’Dell’s 1999 novel of the same name, Back Roads tells the story of a young man named Harley (played by Pettyfer), who’s dealing with the challenges of adulthood when his mother (Juliette Lewis) is suddenly imprisoned for killing his father. He’s then forced to deal with “the challenges of uncovering the truth” behind his father’s death, Pettyfer tells EW, and the truth of what’s going on in their rural Pennsylvania town.

Back Roads has had a long and winding journey from page to screen. It was originally to be adapted 10 years ago, with Adrian Lyne directing. Pettyfer was interested in the project at the time, but things fell through. Still, the Magic Mike actor couldn’t get the story out of his head, and nine years later, he circled back.

“The project really resonated and stayed with me all that time,” Pettyfer says. “I came across the script again and was wondering where it stood, and went to the producer who was still on board and asked her to collaborate.” Soon Pettyfer found himself not only as a producer on the project, but also a cast member, alongside Jennifer Morrison and Nicola Peltz. As Pettyfer and his producing partner were looking for a director, the actor had the chance to take on perhaps his most challenging role yet: filmmaker.

While being an actor, producer, and director on the project had its challenges, Pettyfer, 28, was up for it. “It had been a childhood dream to be able to step behind the camera,” he says.

Back Roads opens in theaters December 7. Watch the trailer exclusively above.

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