Georgina Garcia Riedel's first big-screen feature focuses on Garcia family matriarch Dona Genoveva (Lucy Gallardo); her middle-aged daughter Rosa (Elizabeth Pena); and her teenaged granddaughter, Blanca (America Ferrera). The 70-year-old grandmother catches her family completely off guard by purchasing an old car after a lifetime of never having driven. When Don Pedro (Jorge Cevera Jr.), a gardener from the neighborhood, offers to give Dona Genoveva driving lessons, sexual feelings awaken in her after years of widowhood, which followed a longtime loveless marriage. Rosa, meanwhile, is a divorcee coping with loneliness and attempting to fend off her attraction to married playboy Victor (Steven Bauer), who is determinedly pursuing her. At the same time, Blanca's burgeoning sexuality is being tested with the arrival of town newcomer Sal (Leo Minaya), who flatters Blanca by selecting her out of the group of available young girls drifting through their summer vacation.
In production notes for "How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer," Riedel names French New Wave helmer Jean-Luc Godard as one of her influences, though she states, "I don't want to make films like [his]." If anything, Riedel accomplishes her goal of avoiding Godardesque stylings, since the director is credited with inventing the filmic technique of jump cuts, which famously speed up a film's action. Riedel's feature debut, instead, is marked by an overall pace and camerawork that are unrepentantly slow--a tempo unlikely to retain the interest of many moviegoers for its full 128 minutes. (One of Riedel's typical directorial moves, for example, is a real-time lingering shot of Rosa cleaning every single glass panel of her meat shop's counter.)
Not without its highlights, most notably the credible performances turned in by Ferrera ("Real Women Have Curves") and veteran actress Pena, "How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer" also wins points on its poignant attempt to showcase that, contrary to cultural conventions, sexuality is innate in women of all ages, not just the young. Starring Elizabeth Pena, America Ferrera, Lucy Gallardo, Jorge Cevera Jr., Steven Bauer, Rick Najera and Leo Minaya. Directed and written by Georgina Garcia Riedel. Produced by Georgina Garcia Riedel and Olga Arana. No distributor set. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 128 min.