Film Review: Melissa Barrera is hauntingly captivating in All the World Is Sleeping, a harrowing drama on addiction and generational abuse

  • Peter Gray
  • March 18, 2023
  • Comments Off on Film Review: Melissa Barrera is hauntingly captivating in All the World Is Sleeping, a harrowing drama on addiction and generational abuse

A harrowing tale of addiction, psychological instability, and the humanising of substance abuse, All the World Is Sleeping is a generational drama that provides no easy answers within.  Inspired by the true stories of Carly Hicks, Patricia Marez, Jade Sanchez, Myra Salazar, Kayleigh Smith, Malissa Trujillo, and Doralee Urban, a collective of New Mexico women that writer/director Ryan Lacen compiled together to detail their own history of substance abuse, the film reflects the ever-growing drug epidemic with a chaotic, non-linear viewpoint.

Chama (Melissa Barrera, mesmerising) is a composite character of the brave women who have shared their story, a single mother who only wants what’s best for her daughter (Adilynn Marie Menendez‘s Nevaeh), but can’t escape the cyclical trauma that defined her own childhood.  As she remembers her own mother passing out, cigarette in hand, Chama’s dilapidated house leaks rain water from the roof above, her own dreams violently raped as she struggles to pay for the bare expenses so she and her daughter can survive; a flophouse visit for her latest fix the only reactive response she knows how to execute correctly.

Consistently a dark, uncomfortable film to view – there’s a certain helplessness as a viewer in watching Chama’s life descend before our eyes – All the World Is Sleeping commits to a recurrent mentality in how it treats Chama’s hopeful nature; She sleeps through the alarm set to wake her in order to collect her daughter from school, and then in her scramble home in the evening when realising her negligence, she swears she will do better as her sister, Mari (Alexis B. Santiago), curses her out and likens Chama to their mother; At Nevaeh’s birthday party, decorated with stolen supplies she acquired after freebasing heroin with her best friend, Toaster (Jackie Cruz), she starts to sweat nervously and itch all over, unable to notice her daughter sitting alone as she runs to the bathroom to shoot up.  It’s an execrable existence.

Enhancing the hallucinogenic haze of Chama’s narcotic-infused psyche, Lacen disorients the film with flashbacks and voice-over narrations.  It’s subdued in its chaotic nature, but the writer/director never adheres to the notion in making the material trippy in a way that could be deemed artistically cool for the intention of celebrating drug use.  Chama is all too aware that she’s hurting the ones she loves, but it’s the only way of parenting and connecting she knows how.  She’s alone, even if she has people around her that could help, and Barrera embodies this desperation with a performance that revels in the character’s frustrating actions.  We want to help Chama ourselves, and it’s because Barrera radiates warmth in even the most lost of places.

Although the film itself is a collection of stories told by women who have survived their darkest days of addiction, indicating a certain light at the end of the tunnel, All the World Is Sleeping is by no means a filmic experience bathed in levity or reprieve.  Sadness lures on every corner, as does Toaster with a fix to “help” ease Chama’s pain, but it’s necessary to experience the helplessness of an addict’s frame of mind.  The film is proof that cycles can be overcome and that self-destruction doesn’t always have to result in fatal failure.  A wake-up call to society.


All the World Is Sleeping is now screening in select theatres and available On Demand in the United States.  An Australian release is yet to be determined.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.