The film starts in 1944 when the American Troops make their triumphal entry in a little Italian town during the last stages of World War II. Mara (Claudia Cardinale) is the belle of the town and she is tired of living between the ravages of the war but she is very strong-willed and she dreams of finding the right man to leave her one horse town. One day she meets Bebo (George Chakiris), a young ex partisan with a fame of a courageous killer and now a comrade of her father in the ranks of the Italian communist party. She ends up engaged to the young man, who is exasperatingly spartan with words and totally lacking the social skills to courting Mara. And to make things worse, the day that he is at last talking to Mara, he tells her candidly that in a fit of rage, after a friend of his is murdered by a sergeant, he killed, first the sergeant, and then the sergeant's son that has nothing to do with the first killing, but that he has been a witness to the violent death of his father. Bebo is very confused, and his comrades organize his escape to Yugoslavia until the matter of the killings be forgotten. Mara and Bebo make love the last night before his departure to exile, and she promises him to be loyal to the compromise and wait for his return. But the time is a very powerful enemy. Mara leaves her village and goes to a bigger city where she is employed as a laundry girl. He meets Stefano, a worker in a printing shop and her resolve of not breaking her engagement to Bebo, falters. Stefano is kind, articulated, helpful, romantic. All the things that Bevo is not. She is now working in the printing shop with Stefano and she thinks that she deserves this opportunity to be really happy. But one fine day her father tells her that Bevo has been detained in the frontier and that the police will bring him to a court charged with double assassination. Reluctantly she agrees to meet Bevo in jail and, suddenly, the past rushes over her. He is not the man he used to be. He needs desperately of her, and he tells her so. This is a decisive moment in the story and is very well played by the two leading actors. The film is an excellent showcase for the talented and gorgeous Claudia Cardinale. She is the very soul of this movie and if you are a fan of hers you'll not be disappointed. The movie was directed by Luigi Comencini, generally associated with the comedy Italian style. In this case, a post war romantic drama, he was successful in capturing the mood of that time and the poignant sentimental conflict in the soul of her leading lady Claudia Cardinale.