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Sundance movie review: Award winning 'In the Summers' a sweet teen tale

From left, Dreya Castillo, Luciana Elissa Quinonez and Residente star in "In the Summers." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
From left, Dreya Castillo, Luciana Elissa Quinonez and Residente star in "In the Summers." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- In the Summers, which won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic films at the Sundance Film Festival, is a sweet coming of age tale.

Sisters Eva (Lucianna Elisa Quinonez) and Violeta (Dreya Castillo) visit their father, Vincente (Residente) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Each summer presents challenges and formative moments.

Eva and Violeta live with their mother during the school year. It's clear there's still acrimony but the film only shows Vincente.

Vincente is a loving father who is always happy to see his girls and takes them to do fun activities when they're younger. He'll drop a passive-aggressive comment about his ex-wife which the girls understand more when they're older.

In the Summers is a quiet movie. A few major events happen but the focus is on human interaction.

Sasha Calle (L) and Lio Mehiel star in "In the Summers." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Sasha Calle (L) and Lio Mehiel star in "In the Summers." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

The universal friction between parents and children is always present. As teenagers Eva and Violeta explore first loves too.

Or, summer loves. They could have had romances during the school year not featured in the film.

Alessandra Lacorazza won the U.S. Dramatic Jury Prize for Directing. Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Alessandra Lacorazza won the U.S. Dramatic Jury Prize for Directing. Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

The most troubling aspect of Vincente is his drinking. Every time he drinks and gets behind the wheel, he puts his daughters in danger.

There's usually someone to stop him from driving, like the bartender Carmen (Emma Ramos). Sometimes the daughters have to pick him up off the kitchen floor, but with self-destructive people there is only so much outsiders can police their behavior.

Leslie Grace also stars in "In the Summers." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Leslie Grace also stars in "In the Summers." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

One summer Violeta refuses to visit because of Vincente's behavior. Subsequent visits show Vincente attempting to start a new family with Yenny (Leslie Grace) too, but his daughters are always welcome.

As older teenagers, Sasha Calle plays Eva and Lio Mehiel plays Violeta. The transition is seamless and feels like the casting change could represent one school year of growth.

Sasha Calle plays older Eva in "In the Summers." File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
Sasha Calle plays older Eva in "In the Summers." File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI

Writer/director Alessandra Lacorazza, who also won the Directing Award for U.S. Dramatic, approaches all her characters with compassion. Though In the Summers may be her personal story, there are plenty of elements that will resonate with wide audiences.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.