Truth and Movies

Midnight Family

Review by Matt Turner

Directed by

Luke Lorentzen

Starring

Fer Ochoa Josue Ochoa Juan Ochoa

Anticipation.

A firm favourite with both audiences and critics from its first festival screening onwards.

Enjoyment.

Fast paced, action packed. An intimate portrait of the human costs of Mexico’s healthcare crisis.

In Retrospect.

Political and personal pressures compound into moral quandaries. Save the NHS.

Luke Lorentzen’s timely chronicle of a family-run ambulance service makes for engrossing viewing.

A police radio reveals an incident. Seventeen-year-old ambulance driver Juan Ochoa’s eyes widen and, within seconds, he’s flicked the switch on his makeshift siren, slammed the ambulance’s gearstick into place, floored the gas pedal, and is hurtling into the night. As the title card of Midnight Family reveals, Mexico City has just 45 government-run ambulances catering for a population of nine million.

As a result, an “informal industry” of commercially operated rescue vehicles has emerged to fill in. Competition for clients is stiff, which means acting fast is critical. But careering into crisis situations doesn’t leave much space for ethical
consideration; things get messy when healthcare and business mix.

“This ambulance feeds us, so stop fucking around,” Juan says to his father, Fer. Luke Lorentzen’s sharply focused first feature – tightly edited and beautifully shot by the director – depicts the struggles the Ochoas face in trying to keep their business afloat. Tracking a series of tricky ambulance operations, and shot mostly from inside vehicles, the film does a great job of unpicking the nuances of this complex situation without resorting to spelling things out.

It displays the thorny decisions that the family face, but also the surrounding socioeconomic factors that inform them. Beyond the technical demands every operation makes – needing clear communication, a calm disposition, instinctive decision-making, and a god-level ability to weave through oncoming traffic – every pickup that doesn’t pay out still incurs costs (gas, equipment, medical supplies, police bribes, etc).

In one rescue, a woman passes away before she can reach the treatment centre. Fer still asks the woman’s grieving mother if she can cover his costs for the trip. Complicating this transaction further is the suggestion that the hospital the Ochoas drove her to wasn’t the nearest, or necessarily even the best, but the one from which they would have profited most. Every action is weighted against another.

Published 20 Feb 2020

Tags: Luke Lorentzen

Anticipation.

A firm favourite with both audiences and critics from its first festival screening onwards.

Enjoyment.

Fast paced, action packed. An intimate portrait of the human costs of Mexico’s healthcare crisis.

In Retrospect.

Political and personal pressures compound into moral quandaries. Save the NHS.

Suggested For You

Midnight Traveler

By Sophie Monks Kaufman

Afghan director Hassan Fazili documents his family’s persecution at the hands of the Taliban.

review LWLies Recommends

Why I love Nicolas Cage’s performance in Bringing Out the Dead

By Josh Slater-Williams

The actor is at his intense and emotional best in Martin Scorsese’s underrated late ’90s thriller.

Honeyland

By Lillian Crawford

An artful study of culture, poverty and ecology which focuses on an unlikely Macedonian bee keeper.

review

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.

Editorial

Design