Two of Sundance Film Festival‘s biggest awards — the Dramatic U.S. Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Directing Award — both went to In the Summers, the 2024 directorial debut from filmmaker Alessandra Lacorazza.
The movie follows two young girls, Violeta and Eva, as they spend intermittent summer holidays with their troubled father in Las Cruces, New Mexico over the course of 15 or so years, culminating in the young girls becoming adults, played wonderfully by Sasha Calle (Eva) and Lio Mehiel (Violeta). As each summer comes and goes, new troubles arise and open up deep, harkening questions of identity, relationships, and individual growth.
Their father, Vicente, played by the immensely popular Puerto Rican rapper René Pérez Joglar (known as Residente), brings his own slate of hardship to the narrative. With Lacorazza’s exceptionally grounded and wise direction, Vicente’s character growth becomes as important, if not more so, than that of his ever-changing daughters. And character growth is where the movie shines brightest. The film navigates the passing of large swaths of time in an expertly crafted manner, opening with Vicente arriving at the pick-up area of the Las Cruces airport to bring his daughters home.
After inheriting his mother’s house and picking up the litany of snubbed-out cigarettes and crushed beer cans lying around the place, he wisps his daughter on a delightful vacation full of presents, swimming in the backyard pool, and grabbing pizza at the local arcade. The innocence of youth, and that of idealistic parenting, is ripe on all three of their faces, infecting their souls with a zest for quality time spent together in a deeply authentic way.
‘In the Summers’ Blazes Brightly With Sensational Performances
As the second act takes off, the girls return to Las Cruces, this time older and in high school. With different world viewpoints and physical appearances, Vicente quickly reveals his erratic parenting techniques: Ignoring the art Eva gifts to him and audibly specifying Violeta’s more masculine behavior and appearance — a ruthless and relentless attitude that unlocks Vicente’s true personality as time passes.
It’s during this summer when the true heartbreak appears and the story of the resiliency of sisterhood is announced. Lacorazza’s use of tight shots and warm coloring only enhances the juxtaposition of the idea of a fun summer with Dad versus the reality of the one playing out. The sharp visuals of the opening of each act, the final act being no different, with a still frame of key items from that time of life placed upon a shelf, indicate the importance of the evolution being communicated on screen.
While the final act leaves many questions a bit too open-ended — a huge one being Violeta’s queer sexual identity and Eva’s lack of sexual independence — it does see to it that its ode to sisterhood never shies away from being the center of the story. In the Summers is semi-autobiographical and that clearly comes across in the piercing script and pure storytelling. Throughout the film a small amount of Spanish language is not translated — another shrewd directorial decision that brings us even closer to the experiences the characters are living through.
In an impressive debut outing, it’s easy to see why Alessandra Lacorazza’s In the Summers took home not only one but two prizes from the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. There is a sense of the timeless freedom of survival acting as the bedrock for the evolving relationships that never cease to endure no matter the circumstances they face. Maybe, no matter how few and far between they may be, the happy moments can cease to offer sculpting abilities against the punch of the bad ones. Maybe, time is the worst enemy in becoming who we want to be. And maybe familial love offers the very best and the very worst of the relationships this Earth has to offer.
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'In the Summers' Sundance Film Festival 2024 Review'In the Summers' Sundance Film Festival 2024 Review
- Strong directorial decisions offer emotional punches through and through.
- Sasha Calle and Lio Mehiel offer exceptional performances.
- A few too many unanswered questions.
- Could have benefitted from 10 more minutes of character resolution.