All the World is Sleeping follows a desperate young mother through a harrowing journey of opiates addiction and generational instability. Chama, brilliantly portrayed by Melissa Barrera, was written as a composite character from the gut-wrenching true stories of seven New Mexico women. Their struggles with pregnancy and drug abuse breathes life into a protagonist crying for help as she spirals out of control. Chama cannot break free of her mother’s tragic legacy. She continues on the same path filled with self-loathing and searing guilt for her parental failures. There are no easy answers in a powerfully dramatic film with heavy themes.
Chama (Barrera) remembers playing as her mother, Beatriz (Lisandra Tena), lies passed out smoking a cigarette… an ember falls. In present-day New Mexico, Chama’s dilapidated house leaks in the rain as her beloved daughter, Nevaeh (Adilynn Marie Menendez), races to catch the water in pans. Chama can’t afford the fuel pump to fix her old Buick LeSabre. The local garage won’t hire her as a mechanic. She trudges to the flop house for a fix. Her dark dreams masking the dealer’s ugly molestations.
The alarm Chama set to pick up her daughter at school goes off. She hits snooze again before realizing it’s night. Chama scrambles home. Her sister, Mari (Alexis B. Santiago), is absolutely furious. She got Nevaeh from school and made her dinner. Chama swears she will do better. Mari curses her. Chama is just like their mother. She reminds Chama that Nevaeh’s birthday is Friday.
A Feverish Look
Chama sits her with best friend Toaster (Jackie Cruz) on a coach in an abandoned lot. They freebase heroin then steal party supplies. Chama has done her best to make the party festive. But Nevaeh sits alone while Mari glares. Chama sweats nervously. The room begins to swim. Her skin itches. She runs to the bathroom and feverishly looks through her purse.
All the World is Sleeping uses flashbacks, voice-over narration, and direct asides from Chama to tell her heartbreaking story. These are done in an artistic manner meant to be disorienting. Chama’s narcotics haze and hallucinations aren’t cool or trippy. She’s terrified and alone remembering an awful upbringing that haunts her soul. Chama is keenly aware of hurt and disappointments. Her mother, falling in love, getting pregnant, dealing with domestic abuse, heroin soothed the pain of crisis. It became the only crutch to lean on. Chama’s inability to process the surrounding chaos comes to a head when Child Protective Services takes Nevaeh.
Director/writer Ryan Lacen (The Dust Storm) shows unvarnished truth with repeat settings and triggers. Chama rides the bus which always passes her dealer. She nervously looks at the street sign every time. Her efforts to get clean and regain custody introduce new perspectives. We see therapy testimonials from other women in her group home. These stark scenes offer raw insights into the painful process of overcoming addiction.
Cycles of Addiction
All the World is Sleeping has no reprieve or moments of levity. It’s a difficult film to watch as crushing sadness pervades throughout. But Chama’s battle with addiction is a story that must be told and understood with compassion. A riveting scene has Chama pleading in the street for help. She can’t find a recovery shelter. Her daughter is gone. Toaster lures with a fix to stop her torment. Chama runs away because she knows where the darkness leads. Cycles of destruction can be broken. Society must do everything possible to help these women remain sober and become the mothers they yearn to be. Barrera, the new Scream Queen, shows significant depth and range here.
All the World is Sleeping is a Bold Futures and Normal production. It will have a limited theatrical and digital release on March 17th from Gravitas Ventures.