In the new indie drama “All the World is Sleeping,” Melissa Barrera, the star of “Scream VI,” is battling something much more frightening than Ghostface, drug addiction. Her character Chama is an amalgamation of seven real women in New Mexico impacted by substance abuse. Bathed in authenticity, with solid performances by Barrera and costars Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) and Jackie Cruz (“Orange is the New Black”), the film tackles the opioid epidemic from the viewpoint of the Latin community where socioeconomic factors play a key role in heroin use.

Three hours south of where Walter White and Jesse Pinkman cooked Blue Sky, lies Las Cruces, New Mexico, home to single mother Chama (Barrera) and her middle school-aged daughter Nevaeh, played by Texas native Adilynn Marie Menendez. The official slogan of New Mexico is “Crescit Eundo” which is Latin for “grows as it goes.” One thing is for sure, Hollywood is giving the state a growing reputation, for junkies.

Chama and her best friend Toaster (Jackie Cruz), know that Fentanyl and Oxy cost too much and are hard to acquire. Like many other people struggling with drug abuse in impoverished Latin communities, the best friends turn to Heroin. It’s cheaper, readily available, and the high outlasts pills.

When life becomes too difficult for Chama, chasing the dragon seems like the quickest way to forget about all the problems, but her daughter is always top of mind. She remembers having to deal with her own mother who struggled with addiction, as seen in a series of flashbacks, which meant she had to care for her mother rather than vice versa. “I used to tell teachers I was sick. That’s why I was missing school” Chama recalls in voiceover narration by Barrera.

In one of the film’s opening scenes, Chama works on her 85 Buick LeSabre in the rain. She learned to be a mechanic by watching her “abuelo” tear cars apart. It needs a new fuel pump, but she can’t afford to fix it and the local body shop won’t give her a job despite her skills. They blame the slow economy. For now, Chama uses mass transportation to get her daughter to school as they ride the bus together. We see her struggling to be a good mother, but life won’t let her catch a break. CPS takes custody of Nevaeh after Chama fails to pick up her daughter after school; She passed out in a trap house after doing heroin. Aunt Mari (Alexis B. Santiago) picked up her niece, but the school reported the incident and Chama’s luck ran out.

The second half of the film is centered on Chama’s fight to get clean so she can get her daughter back. Jorge Garcia plays halfway house counselor Nick injecting levity into the sobering drama. It’s a good performance by the actor-comedian who comes across as caring with just enough tenacity to reach the women in the facility, which is 100% voluntary. If you’re there, it’s because you care.

Written and directed by Ryan Lacen (“The Dust Storm”) who was contacted by the New Mexico nonprofit Bold Futures, inviting him to speak to seven women battling drug addiction. After spending several months listening to their stories, he turned what could have been a documentary into his sophomore narrative feature. Melissa Barrera delivers an emotional and honest performance supported by a strong cast. Like other films about addiction, the story segues into melodrama a few times, but the heartfelt film clearly depicts the struggle of opioid abuse, from a fresh perspective, women in Latin communities, especially mothers. Thanks to the seven women who were brave enough to share their stories, “All the World is Sleeping” evokes pathos to paint a real picture in a country where nearly one in three people know someone addicted to opioids.

(3 stars)

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Joe Friar head and shoulders

Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.