Starring The Flash actress Sasha Calle and René Pérez Joglar (aka artiste Residente), In the Summers is the directorial debut of Alessandra Lacorazza Samudio. Stemming across four chapters (in the form of summers), it tells the story of two girls who periodically visit their unpredictable father Vicente (Joglar).
Set in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the girls Eva and Violeta visit their father for the first time as he has inherited his mother’s house, pool and all. Despite their initial excitement, it is clear that Vicente’s issues with drinks and drugs prevent him from being an effective father and subsequently trouble the girls, especially when they are on the sharp end of his volatile behaviour. This sense of unease sets the tone for future summers, which see the girls further distance themselves from Vicente and him from being a proper father. The girls’ only shoulder to cry on is bartender and Vicente’s old friend Carmen (Emma Ramos), whose kind words and insight offer a rare form of solace but fail to justify Vicente.
As the girls grow up, they slowly become two different people – Violeta begins to embrace her queerness and develops a crush on Camila (Sharlene Cruz), one of Vicente’s students, while Eva remains the more optimistic that their father can be an active part of their lives, only to become an emotionally detached adult due to his continued lack of affection towards her. Samudio subtly crafts the friction among the characters through her dialogue, so their conflicting emotions gradually deepen with each break becoming a boiling pot that – despite his best efforts to educate and entertain them – slowly fractures Vicente’s relationship with his children. However, this provides an overwhelming sense of melancholy that drags the film through each chapter, to the point which you are almost hoping for something to show that the family had some fight in them. Unfortunately, each chapter only compounds the depressing realisation that things are unlikely to improve.
In terms of casting, Joglar delivers an engaging performance, effortlessly switching from the fun-loving dad to ill-tempered in the blink of an eye. However, the film belongs to the actresses who play Eva and Violeta, as they subtly adapt how they behave with their father to the point that their relationship has all but broken down by adulthood (when they are played by Calle and Lio Mehiel, respectively). Between them, they gently convey the heartbreak of a broken family yet the tension that build through their awkwardness feels wasted, so the resentment the sisters feel is brushed aside to facilitate In the Summers‘ overly simple conclusion.
In her debut film, Samudio’s direction sees the girls meander through the ghost town of Las Cruces and the picturesque landscapes of New Mexico to offer gentle but numerous slow moments of contemplation for the characters. The director tries to liven the tone through tense confrontations of In the Summers, which bring a fire and spirit that the film sorely lacks – only to keep these interactions to a minimum to prevent her characters to find closure.
Overall, Samudio brings a personal yet unrefined perspective that focuses more on her characters than addressing the years of ongoing heartbreak among them. As a result, there is a promising and consistent depth of emotion driving In the Summers with the support of some solid performances.
Director: Alessandra Lacorazza Samudio
Stars: René Pérez Joglar, Sasha Calle, Lio Mehiel, Emma Ramos, Sharlene Cruz
Runtime: 95 minutes