Top Sundance 2024 Film “In the Summers” Depicts Snapshots of Fractured Family

Just as many moviegoers are experiencing the wider release of awards season darling The Zone of Interest, a film about what’s not happening at the Holocaust, the top prize winner at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival traces the lives of two sisters over two decades through four brief summers visiting their alcoholic father and omits off-screen the other dozens of seasons comprising umpteen collective years of their more consistent formative experiences. Still as a poetic and humanist glimpse at growing up while mesmerized and repulsed by traits of an erratic father figure whose frailties they certainly don’t wish to emulate, Alessandra Lacorazza’s In the Summers (B-) features lovely performances and sensitively maps the topography of the human heart in the unexpected terrain of desert town Las Cruces, New Mexico, with a predominantly Latino cast. Like Moonlight, the kids growing up are played by different actors in each of the film’s successive chapters, capturing a vibe if not a precise facsimile, with urban music star René Pérez Joglar (aka Residente) the constant with a marvelous lived-in portrayal of the troubled father. Each pair of actresses builds a successive solid foundation, paying off in anguished final act performances by Sasha Calle and Lio Mehiel. Along the bittersweet journey are suggested sexual awakenings and implied chemical dependencies, but viewers may find themselves at a distance with only snapshots disclosed along the sisters’ throughlines. Despite a relaxed pace, some critical junctures are rushed or unresolved. Some of the movie’s metaphors about decay and distrust, evident in the unkept family pool and literal scars from skirmishes, become a bit too obvious as the film is revealed to not have a huge head of steam in the plot department. Cinematographer Alejandro Mejía creates delicate frames for an often moving series of portraits, including lovely chapter dividers depicting souvenirs of each epoch of summertimes when the living isn’t easy. Viewers will find they deeply care about these girls growing up even if the film’s format doesn’t always dwell on the most interesting parts of their stories. 

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