Terry George has always been a screenwriter with a passion for serving victims of injustice. But when does the pursuit of justice become lust for revenge? George delves into the emotional complexities of this question with his latest project, Reservation Road.

Based on the John Burnham Schwartz novel of the same name, Reservation Road follows two men and their families in the shattering wake of a fatal accident. Divorced father Dwight (Mark Ruffalo) is wracked with self-loathing after killing Ethan Learner’s son in a hit-and-run on a Connecticut backroad. Ethan (Joaquin Phoenix) manifests his grief by hunting obsessively for Dwight, which takes a psychological toll on the grieving father and, by extension, his wife, Grace (Jennifer Connelly) and daughter Emma (Elle Fanning). Dwight, meanwhile, struggles between an urge to turn himself in and the need to care for his son. Writer-director George hopes his movie will make audiences look at retribution and responsibility in a new way. “In this post-9/11 world,” he says, “‘an eye for an eye’ needs to be examined through drama. What happens when that thing you see on television—‘revenge’—comes home to you on a very personal level?”

George’s past works have had a reputation for hitting home. Based on tragedies that are all too real, his powerful biopics In the Name of the Father (which he wrote) and Hotel Rwanda (which he wrote and directed) illuminated true-life social wrongs for moviegoers and enjoyed broad critical acclaim. Hotel Rwanda earned three Oscar nominations in all, one for George’s screenplay and one each for performers Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo. In the Name of the Father gained Academy recognition for its directing, editing and acting, adding a Best Actor nomination for star Daniel Day-Lewis.

Expect the combination of excellent acting and George’s screenwriting talent to win again with Reservation Road, a fiction that promises to speak to audiences on a very real level.