An adult Paul Whitehurst (the voice of Martin Sheen) recalls three incredible days during the summer of 1935 when he (Scott Terra) was ten years old and living with his proper middle-class parents in Tidewater, Virginia. His strict father (Darrell Larson) and his terminally ill mother (Deborah Hedwall) go out of town and leave him in the care of the Dabneys, a lower-class family. Paul's best friend is little Mole (Daniel Treat), one of their many children.
Vernon Dabney (Harvey Keitel), a bootlegger, and his wife Trixie (Andie MacDowell) are challenged to open their hearts when Shadrach (John Franklin Sawyer), a 99-year-old former slave, shows up on their doorstep. He has walked all the way from Alabama so he can be buried on the old Dabney plantation where he was born.
Susanna Styron directs this heart-affecting drama based on her father William's 1978 short story. For Paul, the encounter with Shadrach is a real eye opener. We must give each death that enters our life the attention it deserves. The young boy is also exposed to the universal yearning to dwell forever in our youth when we were free of trouble. And finally, he learns that in this harsh world it sometimes takes a bit of creativity to express deep compassion.