It is 1916. The Australian community is riven over a referendum to conscript more troops for the killing fields of Europe. Nine-year-old Matthew's family, divided politically and sinking into poverty, reflects the social conflict. Handsome, generous Edward is at the centre of the family friction. Gran hates the war as Edward does, Mother flirts with him to escape the misery of her marriage, and young Matthew adores him. As patriotic frenzy takes hold, police informers spy on Edward and track his anti-conscription activities. Sabotage and anarchism are meaningless words to Matthew. Absorbed in childhood fantasies, he is unaware that he too is helping draw the net around Edward. It is left to Matthew's German headmaster to teach him that, like music, people grow with love.