Oscar-winning actor Tim Robbins and British actress Samantha Morton have teamed up for new movie Code 46, a cautionary tale set in the near future.
Imagine a world where all movement is regulated, memories can be selectively erased and unchecked genetic experimentation has made human love potentially hazardous.
Robbins and Morton play lovers who stumble upon a dark secret
That's the eerily plausible landscape where British film-maker Michael Winterbottom has set Code 46, a science-fiction drama that draws on modern concerns over cloning, climate change and cross-border travel.
Robbins plays William Geld, an American detective sent to Shanghai to look into fraudulent "papelles" - hi-tech documents that serve as passport, visa and insurance combined - that have appeared on the black market.
Using drugs to read the minds of possible suspects, William identifies Maria Gonzalez (Morton) as the culprit.
But an inexplicable attraction to this young woman compels the married professional to let her go, setting in motion a tragic love story that draws them both into uncharted emotional territory.
"I really liked the idea of doing a romance," says Robbins, who won an Oscar earlier this year for his role in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River.
"This had classic elements, but reinvented in a way that was really interesting."
According to Robbins, Code 46 offered an intriguing spin on the traditional love story that lifted it out of the ordinary.
"What appealed to me was the placing of a love story in this futuristic environment where genetics, DNA and cloning have deconstructed romance," he explains.
"My character and Sam's character recognise a love and a faith and a destiny, but they have to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them.
"The obstacle is their genetic make-up, and the idea that in the future certain people are forbidden from being together sexually because of what they might produce."
For Morton, nominated for an Oscar herself this year for drama In America, the concept of human freedoms being curtailed by faceless bureaucracy struck a personal chord.
Morton will soon be seen in British thriller Enduring Love
"When I was growing up, I wanted to go to drama school - but you needed a minimum of five GCSEs to even audition for Rada," says the Nottingham-born actress.
"I left school very young, so I didn't have this piece of paper and I was told I couldn't even audition without it."
Having appeared in Steven Spielberg's big-budget science-fiction adventure Minority Report, Morton is no stranger to fantasy.
Winterbottom, however, chose to shoot on real locations in Shanghai and Dubai rather than constructing elaborate futuristic sets.
"Code 46 is more true to life than any science-fiction film I've seen," says Morton. "It's shockingly real. The stuff that's in the film is happening now - we just choose not to see it."
Robbins agrees, though filming in some of the world's most congested urban centres was not without its problems.
"For the first couple of weeks, we were in Shanghai, and that's a chaotic kind of city," he recalls. "There don't seem to be any rules for the traffic. I can't understand how more cyclists don't get hit."
The actor is full of praise for Winterbottom, whose prolific and varied oeuvre includes refugee drama In This World, Madchester biopic 24 Hour Party People and the sexually explicit Nine Songs.
"Michael had such a renegade spirit - we would just jump out of cars and shoot," Robbins says.
Michael Winterbottom (centre) directs Robbins and Morton
"That can be fantastic. I think he got some really great stuff there."
Robbins' sentiments are echoed by Morton, who describes Code 46 as "a film for adults about love".
"What Michael did was throw us into the real world, and tell us to perform in that environment," she says.
Renowned for her forthright opinions, Morton has no hesitation in comparing her provocative new movie to mainstream Hollywood product.
"I was watching a film the other day that was supposed to be a scary, edge-of-the-seat thriller - and I was so bored by it," she says.
"This seemed more scary to me. I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happened next."
Code 46 opens in the UK on Friday.