Midnight Family

First thing’s first, and I don’t find myself saying this too often about documentaries, but one of the best things about Luke Lorentzen’ Midnight Family is the amazingly beautiful camerawork. It will be screened in 4K which will make the viewing experience that much more enrapturing for future viewers. The way the film is shot makes you feel as though you are right in the thick of the action, of which there is quite a bit.

Midnight Family centers on the Ochoa family, who are one of many families who (at least attempt to) make their living through for-profit ambulance services. In Mexico City, where the film takes place, there are only FORTY-FIVE government provided ambulances in a city with a population of 9 million people. For-profit ambulances came on the scene as a relief but also as a way for some people to make money off of vulnerable people’s misfortunes.

“…the Ochoa family…makes their living through for-profit ambulance services.”

The Ochoa’s seem to be the exception to the rule in this cutthroat industry of for-profit EMT work. While some of the ambulance companies won’t even pick up the injured til they agree to pay, the Ochoa’s first priority is transporting the patient, even though a vast percentage of the time, the patient or their family don’t have the money or refuse to pay once the patient gets safely to the hospital. On top of the fact that the team uses police bribes of 300 pesos to get to the accident sites first, this corruption causes the Ochoa’s a good bit of financial stress.

The Ochoa’s are an extremely likable group. We have Juan who does most of the talking throughout the film. He’s a 17-year-old with a big ego and loves to drive the ambulance super fast. When he’s not telling the camera about his successes, he is on the phone with his girlfriend, Jessica. Then there is Manuel, who doesn’t talk much on screen but is the one in the unfortunate position of having to ask patients for money after their ambulance rides. Then we have Fernando who is Juan and Josue’s father and the patriarch of the family and head of the business with Fernando. Lastly, we have the hilarious Josue, an eleven-year-old kid who would much rather spend nights on ambulance rides than days in school.  

There are several thrilling scenes where the Ochoa’s must rush through the horrendous Mexico City traffic to pick up patients. Fernando yells through a loudspeaker for taxis and cars to get out of the way. More than once, we witness the Ochoa’s dealing with the police, sometimes losing all the money they made in one night on paying bribes and staying out of jail. It’s frustrating, considering that all the Ochoa’s and most other ambulance services are trying to save peoples lives, yet cash continues to be king, especially to corrupt police.

“…it’s a very exciting, sad, yet extremely funny film…”

Lorentzen befriended the Ochoa’s after moving to Mexico City and seeing Juan and Josue cleaning the ambulance outside of the hospital. He was a one-man crew, which is very impressive considering how well done Midnight Family is, but it also makes sense considering that the back of an ambulance is not all that big. Lorentzen did a great job about remaining objective enough to show us the corruption inside the Mexican government and the world of for-profit life-saving services. Yet he was subjective enough to successfully allow the audience to care for the Ochoas and hope that they can continue to thrive as a business and a family.

I think it’s important that Lorentzen shows worldwide audiences the desperate situation with healthcare in Mexico with Midnight Family. Perhaps this will lead to charitable donations and reforms to improve the system. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a very exciting, sad, yet extremely funny film. I can’t wait for you all to see it.

Midnight Family (2019) Written and Directed by Luke Lorentzen. Starring Juan Ochoa, Fernando Ochoa, Manuel Ochoa, Josue Ochoa.

8 out of 10 stars

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