When Italian Cosimo (Riccardo Scarmarcio) and French Nicole (Clara Ponsot) see each other in Genoa during the G8 riots, they instantly fall in love. Overtaken by an overwhelming passion, the couple never leave each other's sides and decide to move to Genoa. A friend Paolo (Paolo Sassanelli) who is a music promotor, gives them jobs organising rock shows and their lives seem to be going from strength to strength. When a disastrous accident occurs on their job, it starts to fracture Cosimo and Nicole's relationship, not only with each other but with Paolo as well.

Love is a battlefield.

ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL: Nicole (Clara Ponsot) and Cosimo (Riccardo Scarmarcio) meet during a riot. It’s shot shaky-cam and it appears as a nightmarish mad scramble of swinging truncheons and heavy boots and the odd plea for help amidst outrage. Did Nicole fall in love with Cosimo the moment he squeezed lemon into her eyes to clear the fog of tear-gas that had left her floored, dazed and confused? His rescue appears to her like some apparition. Such chance encounters are the stuff of true romance, at least in the movies, and since this love was born amidst chaos it is clouded in doom from the very beginning.

follows the tradition of such stories where reckless endeavor is always equated with love

She is a French national and still a teenager, 17, as the movie begins. Slim, dark, with flashing eyes and a pouty mouth that explodes into the kind of smile known only to the truly innocent, Nicole seems wired for adventure. He is a bit older than her, dark, Italian, with a crop of tangled black-hair and heavy stubble that does nothing to disguise his matinee idol good looks. He is what was once dubbed a 'drifter’, and Nicole is what you might call 'wild’. In movie language, this set-up suggests a story of Amour Fou.

And in some ways, Cosimo and Nicole follows the tradition of such stories where reckless endeavor is always equated with love and the lovers themselves do any number of silly things to testify to their devotion to one another.

The plot here hinges on a heinous crime in which Nicole and Cosimo must share in some of the guilt. As in film noir, this burden is like a dark stain that over time smears and smothers the romance. Yet, there is a delicious irony in the story, too. I can’t say too much about how it actually plays out because that would be a spoiler and part of the film’s pleasure is how it takes you by surprise in its passion for chance encounters, fateful coincidences and unlikely twists and sudden reversals of fortune.

But put it this way: rest assured that the lovers find a way to live with each other and what they have done. In the way they redeem their crime, they move from a kind of restless hedonism to something resembling moral maturity. Or to put it differently, this is a movie that takes for granted such a thing as a social conscience. Here it is a matter of life and death, freedom and betrayal. This is a movie about outsiders set in a place where doing the 'right’ thing comes with a penalty and looking the other way can be rewarded with friendship, a home and a good job. The movie makes it plain that such a moral economy is not exclusive to Italy.

Nicole and Cosimo love the twilight sun and good times of Genoa. They feel accepted in this place where there’s always a party or a show. They get a gig working for Paolo (Paolo Sassanelli), a grey-bearded aged rock promoter who hides grim and larcenous secrets behind the offer of a free drink and a quick smile.

Paolo’s workers are itinerants like Nicole and Cosimo and Alioune (Souleymane Sow). A refugee from Guinea in Southern Senegal, Alioune is in Italy without papers. He lives in fear of being turned in. Timid and suspicious, he can’t or won’t return Cosimo’s casual friendliness with any conviction. Or maybe Alioune is struck by Cosimo’s casual insistence that the world is a playground for any twenty-something with the guile to pursue it: 'Africa," says Cosimo, 'that’s beautiful. I want to go there"¦ what’s in Senegal?" 'War," says Alioune. Cosimo just shrugs this news away: 'Well, I guess I won’t be going."

As the movie tells it, there are dozens of men and women like Alioune, illegal immigrants, who disappear every month in Genoa; or else they end up in hospital with their body shattered, a victim of violence or accident, with no one prepared to claim them, or admit to ever knowing them.

I’m making the film seem a stern lesson, but director Francesco Amato finds a way to deliver this yarn without it making it seem like a sermon or a Ken Loach film. The mood is buoyant and driven by the high energy of its characters. Right from the start, we’re trapped in the combined worldview of Nicole and Cosimo: a place of colour and constant movement that seems naïve and impervious to a world of wrongs and injustice. The lovers meet during the G8 protests. Still, we never hear them discuss anything remotely 'political’; Amato and co. don’t make too much of this point, but it struck me as a sly satirical jab at the expense of both a sensationalist media and a cult of protest fed on adrenaline. Meanwhile, a human rights crisis—in the form of an underground of refugees —quietly erupts around them, unnoticed.

The visual style—the cinematographer is Federico Annicchiarico— affects that seemingly artless (but actually very sophisticated) highly mobile, hand-held 'you are there’ strategy that makes it seem like nothing at all was staged for the camera but caught in the moment; think Michael Winterbottom of 9 Songs or 24 Hour Party People, but without the tricks and digressions.

It’s a script—by Amato and Daniela Gambaro and Giuliano Miniati—that makes tremendous demands on all the actors, but the cast is tremendously good. Nicole and Cosimo could come off easily as gormless twits or self-pitying goofs who do too little, too late, to affect meaningful change. But Ponsot and Scarmarcio are scarily real in the way their choices confound and confuse themselves and each other; in the end, they’re guests at a party, surrounded by someone else’s loving family, one that’s survived relentless pressures. And I think it’s clear that Nicole and Cosimo are left wondering, where is our life? What are we committed to? Movies rarely make courage look this hard and that’s what makes this film ultimately so powerful.