“What’s worse than being invisible is being seen as disposable.”
Raising a child as a single mother is difficult. It is even more difficult when struggling with addiction. All the World Is Sleeping, directed by Ryan Lacen, is the story of such a woman. But the story behind the film may be more important than the story in the film.
Chama (Melissa Barrera) is trying to raise her daughter, but she often fails because of her addiction. She loves her daughter and the daughter loves her, but her addiction has their lives out of control. Her mantra is “I can make my daughter happy. I can keep my shit together.” However much she may say that, we know that it’s not that easy.
In time, Child Protective Services will have to take the child away, driving Chama even deeper into her drug use. Will she be able to find a way out? There are few programs to help her. But she knows that if she wants to see her child’s face again, she will have to fight her way through the pain.
This film’s genesis is found in Bold Futures NM, an advocacy group for women and people of color in New Mexico. Seven women with histories of substance use and parenting came together. The outcome of their sharing stories was a film that allowed their voices to be heard. The film makes it so they are neither invisible nor disposable.
The film shows the generational cycle of substance abuse that often repeats the sins of the mothers and daughters. Chama’s mother was a poor mother and Chama learned how to try to cover that up, but also her mother’s habits. The film also points us to the emotions that underlie the addictions and behavior of Chama and other women in the film. Often a woman will speak directly to the camera, which I sense is very close to verbatim accounts from some of those women whose stories were put into the film.
While the film does not bring any new insights, it is always important to hear the voices of the people we may have tried to ignore. There is a scene in the film that brings this idea home. We occasionally see a homeless woman who is constantly in an animated argument when there is no one near her. Chama looks away and tries to dissuade her daughter from paying attention. But, in time, Chama perceives that what is really needed is to go to the woman and let her know that there is someone there. That is the message this film provides for a world that hopes that the struggles of addiction will just stay hidden.
All the Work Is Sleeping is in select theaters and on digital platforms.
Photos courtesy of Gravitas Ventures.