All the World is Sleeping” is an extremely moving motion picture that was created to tackle the unfair and judgmental perceptions of mothers living with and struggling through addiction in the Latin communities.

Writer/director Ryan Lacen has spoken in length of how his own family was affected by the disease of addiction. In creating this emotionally potent work, the filmmaker set out to make something truthful and succeeds, doing so without being exploitive.

A tremendously good Melissa Barrera is Chama, a composite character of seven different women whose shared stories make up her character. A single unemployed mother, Chama only wants her daughter (Adilynn Marie Menendez ‘s Nevaeh) to have a good young life.

Plagued by inescapable ghosts of childhood trauma, Chama’s addiction is getting the best of her as the pieces of her life fall apart.

The roof on her state funded house leaks and the lack of money threatens Chama and her daughter’s survival, while a strained relationship with her sister Mari (Alexis B. Santiago), does nothing to help her self-image. Chama’s world is a collage of mistakes.

Lacen and his cameraman Michael Garcia paint the picture with a hallucinatory aura, keeping with Chama’s dazed and unstable path through her world. The character’s poetically haunting voiceover is Malick-esque in its presentation, adding to the ambiance.

The director wants his film to be an uncomfortable experience, as well it should be. It is important for the audience to see the realities of drug addiction on both the addicts and the people who love them.

Lacen’s work doesn’t seek to wallow in the depths of Hell these characters put themselves through, but he commits to showing the harrowing and life-threatening effects of freebasing heroin and the ugly hours and days afterwards.

In her soul, Chama wants to be a good mother, but her life choices crumble her dreams.

No job will hire her and Child protective services takes custody of young Nevaeh after Chama (in a drugged sleep) forgets to pick up her daughter from school.

Barrera plays Chama with a blunt reality. There is nothing false to her portrayal, as the actress gets to the character’s soul. We are angered by her constant slip ups, yet root for Chama to claw her way out of the detritus that is her existence.

In the film’s most heartbreaking moment, Chama screams to her friend and fellow addict that she needs help but wonders “Who is gonna help us?” The weight of the addiction and the feeling of complete helplessness is smothering her, which is the deadly Catch-22 that leads her back to using.

Barrera gives a courageous performance in a brave film, her excellent work complimented by the supporting cast. Jorge Garcia is a particularly good standout as a sympathetic but direct counselor in a halfway house.

“All the World is Sleeping” finds a soulful poetry in its characters, leading to a film full of emotion and sincerity, but no easy answers.

Truth that bold is a rare commodity in today’s cinema.


All the World is Sleeping

Written & Directed by Ryan Lacen

Starring Melissa Barrera, Alexis B. Santiago, Adilynn Marie Menendez, Jorge Garcia

NR, 110 Minutes, Bold Futures/Normal Films