Midnight Family (4 stars)

Midnight Family

Compelling documentary capturing the consequences of Mexico City's broken healthcare system

Luke Lorentzen's compelling, fly-on-the-wall documentary captures the madness, manic energy and dubious morality of Mexico City's broken healthcare system. As the director rides along with one of the city's many private ambulances – which fill the gap left by a threadbare public service, but strictly for profit – it would be natural to assume we're watching a black comedy rather than real life. Bong Joon-ho would be happy to make this one up.

It's also about a family, the Ochoas, led by father Fer and 17-year-old son Juan, who drive their own ambulance around the nocturnal streets in search of patients – or, more exactly, 'customers'. Listening to their police radio or receiving tips from cops, they literally street race other ambulances to be first to the scene of road accidents, crime scenes and domestic incidents. As soon as the injured person is inside their vehicle, they explain their intention to charge for delivery to hospital.

At first the Ochoas appear more kindly than others, willing to help people who say they can't pay. But through the course of the film their own financial pressures – worsened by the increasing bribes they must pay police to keep their barely legal enterprise on the road – will erode that generosity, to the extent that they could actually be doing more harm than good.

Lorentzen takes his own life in his hands by tagging along with these high-speed amateurs (as does Fer's 10-year-old boy, tossed around in the back while playing with his toys). It's a wonder that the multi-tasking American – he's producer, director, cinematographer and editor – can stay on his feet long enough to operate his camera. But he does, with an unobtrusive presence that allows him to reveal the charming, if flawed Ochoas as both exploiters and victims in a corrupt society.

Limited release from Fri 21 Feb.

Midnight Family

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • 1h 30min
  • Directed by: Luke Lorentzen
  • Cast: Juan Ochoa

Docudrama about the Ochoa family, who run a private ambulance in Mexico City.