The lives of Brian Hinkle and his teenage son Ethan were shattered eight years ago when Ethan’s ten-year-old brother Michael was tragically killed while playing with a friend on railroad tracks. Today Brian is still consumed by his own private grief and pain and obsessively photographs trash by railroad tracks and on the edges of the city. And Ethan, now sixteen and a talented musician in the school marching band, is heading for Julliard. Their weekends together are an exercise in painful disconnection as their relationship has grown strained and cold over the years.
Michael’s friend Jimmie, who was with him when he was killed, disappeared with his family immediately after the accident. When he reappears at school and joins the marching band, Ethan and Brian’s carefully constructed protective shells begin to crumble. Jimmie is a wild and reckless kid, but he befriends Ethan and draws him into his world. Meanwhile, Ethan feels that his lost brother has returned and relishes this new friendship while Brian is stunned by Jimmie’s return and begins following and secretly photographing the two of them.
When Ethan finally confronts Jimmie to learn the truth about how his brother died, it sets off a string of events that bring father and son to the brink of disaster and the potential for a new life and relationship.
Told in the midst of the South Pasadena High School Marching Band, Sweet Old World is about a father’s grief, and the son who frees him.