Review by Camden Ferrell
Written and directed by Ryan Lacen, All the World Is Sleeping had its premiere at the 2021 New York Film Festival. What’s interesting about this movie is that it was made by Bold Futures New Mexico, a non-profit that works to incite policy change and the empowerment of women and people of color in the New Mexico area. Created with the help of 7 real life system-impacted and led by actor Melissa Barrera, this is an honorable attempt at telling a moving story of addiction that can sometimes fall short of its goal.
Charma is a product of generational addiction, dealing with the trauma of addiction through the memories of her mother. Now a mother herself, she finds herself falling into this same cycle of addiction, a force that threatens to separate her and her daughter. She must confront her past and find a way to move forward or risk losing her family and sending her daughter down a similar and devastating path. This is a story that details an issue that affects many people and deserves to be addressed. It’s nice to know about Bold Futures and their involvement with the story given its sensitive subject matter.
Lacen’s writing has some problems, but it is also indicative of a creative vision. He forgoes a traditional narrative approach to tell the story in a less conventional manner. It can have some cliché moments and beats that have been seen in this genre before. However, it does a decent job of alternating timelines and juggling with some of the more abstract scenes of internal monologue for Charma.
Most addiction movies live or die by its leading performance, and this is no different. Melissa Barrera has become widely known thanks to her roles in In the Heights and the two most recent installments of the Scream franchise. Viewers might be surprised to see a different side of her in this movie as she deals with the highs and many lows of drug addiction. She’s far from perfect, and she can sometimes oversell her performance, but she is quite great otherwise. I don’t think it’ll blow anyone away, but people might still be surprised.
Even though there is a lot working in this movie’s favor, it also takes some big missteps in its execution. It can be incredibly unbalanced at times and makes the film feel much longer than it actually is. While one must appreciate its attempt at abstract storytelling, it can also come off as a bit pretentious and jejune. The movie also seems to exhaust all of its best moments in its first act, and this can undermine everything that happens in the remaining part of the movie.
All the World Is Sleeping has commendable intent, but it has problems with execution that mitigate a lot of the great things happening throughout. Barrera is interesting to watch in this role, and while there is certainly more good than bad in this movie, it is also a bit disappointing. These are real people’s stories that deserve to be told, but it might have benefitted from a more balanced vision.
All the World Is Sleeping is in select theaters and on VOD March 17.