Saturday, January 4, 2020

Movie with Abe: Midnight Family

Midnight Family
Directed by Luke Lorentzen
Released December 6, 2019

The cost of medical care is controversial enough in the United States thanks to the complexities of health insurance, which often charges patients far too much for simple services that should be covered and can end up bankrupting those who require emergency medical attention. Other countries have different systems, some of which are much more regulated and others which struggle to provide even basic services to those in need. That can lead to exploitative behavior, though each situation in which someone appears to be taking advantage requires a closer look into what the market is and just what those utilizing it to their benefit aim to accomplish.

In Mexico City, there are only forty-five ambulances to serve a population of nine million. As a result, for-profit ambulances operate, rushing to the scenes of accidents to offer treatment and then billing their patients for their services. In many cases, patients are thankful but argue that they can’t pay for a variety of reasons, and the Ochoa family goes home having actually lost money by using gas and medical supplies and receiving nothing in return. They do receive kickbacks by bringing those they care for to certain hospitals, but that doesn’t always make up for the costs they must incur and the time they spend responding to calls.

This film highlights a fascinating arrangement in which these ambulance owners compete with one another to arrive at the scene of an accident first so that they can be the ones who are able to provide care, often joking as they race down the road at incredible speeds. Yet there are many times in which the subjects of the film, the Ochoa family, express just how upsetting it is that the government doesn’t have nearly enough resources to be able to respond, and that in some cases they are the only ones to show up, even after someone has been suffering and bleeding out for a long period of time. They also express a true passion for what they are doing, well aware that, like any other occupation, it is a job that demands payment in return for services.

There is a tremendous thrill that comes with riding along in the front seat of the Ochoa family ambulance, springing into action when a call comes in and doing everything possible to make it there quickly and before anyone else. There is plenty of humor injected into this serious subject matter, thanks largely to the commentary provided when the ambulance finds a motorcycle or taxi in its path and berates the driver over its loudspeaker system to get out of the way. This documentary, which made the fifteen-wide shortlist of films competing for the corresponding Oscar, effectively spotlights its topic in just eighty minutes, all of which feel well-used and energetically vital.


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