Speaking directly to the camera, and perhaps to a support group, a counselor or a family member, Chama poetically muses are her situation and her need to “keep my s— together.”
She describes her dreams, her life, her family, and her struggles and ponders when “everything will fall apart” again. As together as she seems. As thoughtfully as she expresses her dreams, as beautiful as she is Chama can’t help but “wonder if you all hear me.”
“All the World is Sleeping” is a dreamy stroll around addiction, a film that makes much of the “seven women” whose stories inspired it, but which doesn’t actually get a handle on its subject and immerse us in this trap.
Built on a fine, empathetic performance by Melissa Barrera of “In the Heights” and the “Scream” franchise, it’s a movie of musings and close-ups, voice-over narrated memories of a troubled childhood, a family history of addiction, the loss of Chama’s ride-or-die friend, Toaster (Jackie Cruz, also superb) and her struggles to get her daughter back when “CPS” (Child Protective Services) intervenes, in New Mexico as it does every where else addicts are trying to raise children in between binges or fixes.
Chama is struggling, a single Latina mom whose man charmed her, impregnated her and left her, trying to find a job — she’s good with cars — and doting on her little girl (Adilynn Marie Menendez).
“I remember being her age,” Chama narrates of her daughter who is about nine. “It’s when I learned how to lie.”
We see just enough of her childhood to reckon with her quick-tempered alcoholic mother, and to wonder how sister Mari (Alexis B. Santiago) came out the other side a real adult, without addictions or an ill-planned pregnancy. Mari is in her life for the judgement.
Jorge Garcia plays the affable counselor at the halfway house where Chama winds up after her child’s birthday party pushes her over the edge.
We meet the usual collection of “types” who decorate such stories. Inspired by real people or not, these support group characters have become tropes in films like this — the regional Chili’s manager, who may be delusional, the fury with mother issues, the woman seven suicide attempts into “getting clean.”
The cast is quite good, and the locations — including a trip to the White Sands National Monument — ground the picture in a particular place and a corner of the culture.
Of course, as dreamlike as it is, “All the World is Sleeping” runs up against the same problems as Andrea Riseborough’s Oscar-nominated alcoholism drama, “To Leslie.” The ground is over-familiar. And as much as one wants to praise a performance and acknowledge the real life struggles with addiction that inspire such movies, finding something new, novel and powerful to say on the subject at this stage is damned near impossible.
This film is good, just not on a par with “Requiem for a Dream,” “Ben is Back,” “Smashed,” “Half Nelson,” and not even those jewels in the crown can touch “Leaving Las Vegas” for pathology and pathos.
Rating: unrated, violence, drug abuse, nudity, profanity
Cast: Melissa Barrera, Jackie Cruz, Alexis B. Santiago, and Jorge Garcia
Credits: Scripted and directed by Ryan Lacen. A Gravitas Ventures release.
Running time: 1:50