by Hope Madden
For a population of 9 million, Mexico City keeps only 45 official ambulances. Private ambulances compete with each other to fill the need for additional resources. Midnight Family rides along with the Ochoas, one family making their living transporting the injured to government and private hospitals around the city.
Do they have training? The equipment they need to tend to a medical emergency?
Hell, they may not even have gas.
The nuance of the act of goodwill or commerce tightens the film’s emotional grip. As one member of the team worries over an infant while police question the father, clearly unable to pay for these services, it’s obvious that the Ochoa family takes its life saving mission seriously.
At the same time, every action is calculated: how to beat another ambulance to an accident, how to evaluate each situation to best secure payment, which hospital will be the most forthcoming with payment, which police are willing to alert them to accidents in return for a bribe.
It all sounds seedy until you realize what would happen to the injured without them.
And while you’re weighing the ghoulish balance between money and mercy, director Luke Lorentzen shows you just how a high speed chase should be filmed as 17-year-old Juan races and weaves his ambulance through traffic to beat another unit to the scene. (Honestly, you’d think a group of people this well-informed on the ills of Mexico City’s healthcare situation might be a little less daring!)
Juan is all business, a savvy worker with ambition and wisdom to share with his little brother Josue, who rides along at night instead of getting ready to go to school. In these moments, when family members cobble together enough cash for a dinner of tuna on saltines before going home to shower without hot water, the larger context and struggle takes shape.
An urgent portrait of a system in collapse, Midnight Family also uncovers one family’s raft of hope amid an ocean of desperation.