REVIEW: Full Time (2022, dir. Eric Gravel)

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 88 mins

UK Distributor: Parkland Entertainment

WHO’S IN FULL TIME?

Laure Calamy, Anne Suarez, Geneviève Mnich, Nolan Arizmendi, Sasha Lemaitre Cremaschi, Cyril Gueï, Lucie Gallo, Agathe Dronne, Mathilde Weil, Dana Fiaque, Olivier Faliez, Marème N’Diaye, Irina Muluile, Aymeline Alix, Carima Amarouche

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Eric Gravel (director, writer), Raphaëlle Delauche and Nicolas Sanfaute (producers), Irène Drésel (composer), Victor Seguin (cinematographer), Mathilde Van de Moortel (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

An overworked single parent (Calamy) rushes to a potentially life-changing job interview…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON FULL TIME?

It is pure coincidence that Full Time, writer-director Eric Gravel’s new French feature which heavily incorporates crippling union strikes and general societal dissatisfaction into the main plot, is being released in the UK right as the world is experiencing boycotts everywhere from the train lines to Hollywood writers’ rooms, and is currently braced for even further political division.

Coincidence or not, though, this is a film that could easily have been ripped from the headlines at any given time, because on top of offering a frank and heart-palpitating look at the overworked nature of everyday life, it speaks to the current nature of the world around us as it always seems to be reaching boiling point.

Full Time stars Call My Agent! and Her Way actor Laure Calamy as Julie, a single mother who hardly ever stops from the moment her alarm goes off every morning. Before the sun is even up, she’s dressed and fed her two young children, dropped them off at the doorstep of her local childminder, and left to sprint toward the closing train doors as she heads to Paris for her job as a maid in a luxury five-star hotel, before then picking up her kids in the evening. This is practically her routine every single day, which is already stressful enough, but the film depicts a week where the pressure is piled on ten-fold. A train strike has crippled the transportation system, forcing Julie to rely on carpools, crammed coaches, and even hitchhiking to get to work and then back home, more often than not causing her to be late for both which upsets both her boss Sylvie (Anne Suarez) and her elderly nanny Madame Lusigny (Geneviève Mnich), the latter of whom is growing more and more frustrated with having to look after two needy young children while their mother is constantly away. What’s more, Julie has some promising job interviews lined up, so she’s also got to prepare for those while also finding sneaky ways to get her fellow hotel maids to cover for her.

If you got breathless just reading all of that, I promise you that it is all intentional. Full Time is structured and paced like a real-time thriller (even though the action is spread over a number of days), with Gravel right away putting the viewer into his main character’s rushed shoes where things almost never slow down for her. We are right beside her as she attempts to control her hyperactive children, dealing with the meticulous demands and actions of her hotel guests – at one point, she is forced to use a pressure washer to clean away the fecal matter that’s been wiped all over the bathroom walls in the room of an apparently famous Scottish musician – and attend a number of gruelling job interviews, all of which she forces herself to put on a brave face in order to appear like she’s functioning. All the while, the editing and thumping synthesizer musical score gives it a highly gripping sense of hurriedness, like if Run Lola Run had been reworked as a tale of the daily grind, and jam-packs so much intensity and things going wrong that it makes the 88-minute running time feel at least fifteen minutes longer (but in a good way, since it means you really feel the weight of everything dragging this person down).

What’s notable is that, for all of its increased pressure, Full Time is extremely grounded. While there are plenty of difficult situations that Laure Calamy’s Julie faces throughout, there’s rarely ever an earth-shattering moment of drama that causes everything to metaphorically explode. Gravel keeps the devastation contained, but accessible enough for any viewer to strongly identify with the character’s constant restlessness, which Calamy is wholly convincing at portraying with a gripping central performance. What the filmmaker clearly wants to show is that there are so many people like Julie out there, who struggle to balance all of their personal and professional responsibilities in a system that hardly ever allows them a solitary moment of peace, and always seems to work against them at the most inconvenient times. The strikes going on around our lead in this film are a parenthetical reminder of the overly demanding nature of work life as a whole, which see worker across several sectors retaliating against their awful conditions and unrealistic schedules; you’re almost expecting Julie to join them on the picket line, in solidarity with their cause.

Gripping, stressful, and all too familiar to any overworked person out there, Full Time is a smartly observed drama with strong thriller vibes that leave you just as frustrated and pressured as the person you’re mostly observing. It’s impressively contained, not to mention led by a fierce turn by Calamy (who won the Best Actress award at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, alongside Gravel’s Best Director trophy) that reminds us all that perhaps the biggest pile of pressure comes from the simple nature of everyday life.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Full Time is a gripping and smartly observed French drama with strong thriller tendencies, with the grinding everyday schedule of fierce lead Laure Calamy’s work and personal life serving as the backdrop for a stressful commentary on the daily struggles of overworked individuals that is instantly identifiable for anyone trapped in similar circumstances.

Full Time is now showing in cinemas nationwide

Click here to find showtimes near you!

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