Aptly named In The Summers, writer-director Alessandra Lacorazza weaves an intimate family drama in her debut feature film. The film, as the name implies, takes place over a decade of summers that Eva (Luciana Elisa Quinonez/Allison Salinas/Sasha Calle) and Violeta (Dreya Castillo/Kimaya Thais/Lio Mehiel) spend with their father, Vincente. Starting in their formative years and into early adulthood, their Las Cruces, New Mexico summers begin as something to cherish and end as something to resent.
Alessandra Lacorazza thoughtfully constructs a narrative of family memories from childhood to adolescence and adulthood, contradicting each other as time moves forward. Vincente, their father, struggles to fully connect with Eva and Violeta but uses games to keep them engaged. To keep everything fun. But as the games are seen through older eyes, they slowly lose their luster, especially as Vincente’s drinking worsens.
In The Summers is difficult to watch at times. It’s scary. Vincente loves his daughters deeply. He wants to be with them, but wanting to be a parent doesn’t make you a good one. As he oscillates between a loving father and an erratic drunkard, you can’t help but hurt. You hurt for him, knowing he will never be the father he wants to be. But you grow increasingly scared for Eva and Violeta.
Vincente isn’t just hurting his daughters in the moment, but he begins to break down every memory they have of him, too. The deterioration of Eva and Violeta’s relationship with their father shows in the breakdown of his house. What once was a vibrant home falls into disrepair. The pool they loved and played in morphed into a dirtied and emptied hole in the ground. As their father’s alcoholism grows, their memories fade in every way. In attachment to places and to things, Eva and Violeta become increasingly alone as the sober time with their father becomes less and less with each summer visit.
In The Summers is a heartbreaking look at a family. A bilingual story, the latinidad of the film is one that we don’t see so often. Machismo runs Vincente’s life, and it impacts his daughters. He refuses help, he refuses their autonomy, and he ultimately loses him. At the same time, it’s a Latino story that allows its characters the ability to leave their father and not come back, which is something Violeta chooses once she has the choice. Instead of forcing the family together, director Alessandra Lacorazza embraces the cracks between people and doesn’t force the daughters to close that gap with their alcoholic father.
This film is neither about forgiveness nor forgetting, but just unpacking. It’s an intimate family portrait that degrades over time. It’s beautiful in its exploration but painful in its delivery, and that’s why it works. In The Summers is raw, but it’s always aiming to be true. While Eva and Violeta are forced to grow up, Lacorazza never loses the childlike lens with which she films them. They are little girls, even if Vincente’s actions have made them mature. As they begin to bear the marks of their father’s choices by drinking or sleeping around with an inability to form something concrete, the girls have to come to terms with it silently. He is in each of them. He’s in their intelligence and their resiliency, but he’s also in their sorrow and their mistakes.
The small cast is astounding to watch. Each character carries multitudes of emotions. But the standout here is René Pérez Joglar, known as Residente to fans of his band Calle 13. In his acting debut, Pérez Joglar acts with the depth of a seasoned actor. Pérez Joglar’s performance is one of the standouts of Sundance, where In The Summers celebrated its world premiere. I need to see him in more projects.
While much of this comes from his pained expressions and mannerisms, the way he switches between Spanish and English feels like home. His children speak English, but for him to truly explain himself, he switches to Spanish. Every time there is a communication struggle, Vincente makes the choice to change his language. The choice to leave this unsubtitled leaves the audience uncertain as to whether or not the girls know Spanish or are learning what he is saying with the non-Spanish-speaking audience. But he never checks nor changes.
It’s a character moment that unearths the mounds of insecurity. He is a smart man with a brain for math and science, and his frustration when his kids don’t understand him is clear. But it mostly resolves as he switches to a language he feels comfortable in. It’s a dialogue choice that pays off, especially for anyone who has lived with a parent or family member who did this.
In The Summers is a painfully perfect film about the anguish loving your family can cause. It’s a dynamic film that isn’t concerned with blaming anyone but rather taking out every memory and examining it in the context of a full life with a parent who was just never prepared. But the scars left on his children are there still, forging their resiliency at too young an age. The film is a quiet family drama, but in that silliness, it moves emotional mountains.
In The Summers screened as part of Sundance 2024 and won the Grand Jury Prize.
In The Summers
In The Summers is a painfully perfect film about the anguish loving your family can cause. It’s a dynamic film that isn’t concerned with blaming anyone but rather taking out every memory and examining it in the context of a full life with a parent who was just never prepared.