Midnight Family is the second documentary feature from director Luke Lorentzen and it feels perfected. The film feels like an action/crime thriller and it is absolutely jaw-dropping how on earth Lorentzen captured it.
Midnight Family follows the Ochoa family, with the 17 year-old son Juan who appears to lead the clan, in Mexico City as they run a private ambulance. Early on, on-screen text explains that a mere 43 ambulances service the city’s population of 9 million, which necessitates the private sector to fill this gaping hole in the healthcare system. Off the bat, there’s uncertainty with the legitimacy of what they’re doing. To counteract this, the film features no narration, something that is fairly standard for documentaries. Though I think some things could have been explained earlier in the film through narration, I think the mystery added to the suspense, again allowing the audience to be sucked into something that defies at least what I perceive as conventional documentary style. This was certainly helped by the sheer amount of footage gathered which left almost nothing needing an explanation for the enjoyment of the film.
Complete chaos simply doesn’t describe it. One minute they’re at a scene assisting someone with the help of police and the next they’re bribing them to get off their backs with regards to inspections. Most disturbing was the clear intent to take patients to private hospitals even if a public one was closer. This was contrasted with hilarious banter between the family in calm moments which had the audience laughing numerous times. Not to mention, Juan’s younger brother Josué, who was maybe 12 or 13, was always in the van for the ride, witnessing all the horrors we did.
Contrast played a huge role in Midnight Family. Despite this chaos, the cinematography never suffered. In times of agony for the subjects, the shots were beautiful and presented a kind of peaceful night-scape. Additionally, in times of suspense, the mounted cameras in the van took precedence. One great moment was when a call came across the radio and Lorentzen visibly dropped the camera to his side and ran to the back of the van to get in before they sped away.
It feels like nothing is missing from Mightnight Family and I’ll happily call it one of the best documentaries I’ve seen. Recommended for documentary lovers and to those who don’t want to sit through political commentary telling them why something is bad, because this film expertly shows it.
Promotional image obtained from: Brisbane International Film Festival (2019), Midnight Family.
Retrieved from: https://biff.com.au/event/midnight-family/