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In St. Petersburg, a lad named Slava prepares for a cello recital. The film's title and his teacher's inquiry in the first scene about whether his mother will be in the audience suggest that a mother-son relationship will be at the center of things. However, it's Slava and his father who change. Slava plays hockey, and one suspects that this manly activity is more to the father's liking than is music. Then there's dad's drinking, and Slava's valiant and futile efforts to stop it. Things come to a head when dad hears his son's music.

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