tue 05/12/2023

Full Time review - Laure Calamy as a driven single mother | reviews, news & interviews

Full Time review - Laure Calamy as a driven single mother

Full Time review - Laure Calamy as a driven single mother

Working more than 9-5, barely getting by, it's all taking and no giving

Keep on running: Laure Calamy as Julie, racing for a train, in 'Full Time'

Full Time opens in darkness. All we can hear is the sound of a sleeping woman breathing. It’s one of the few quiet moments in a film that follows Julie (Laure Calamy) as she scrambles to manage her life. Divorced with two young children, she lives in a village and commutes to Paris.

It’s still dark when she drops off her kids with an elderly child minder and it’s dark again when she picks them up after a long day’s work in the city. 

The radio relays news of train strikes and protests, her journey is a nightmare of crowded replacement coaches. Work is overseeing a team of chambermaids in a five-star hotel, changing the luxury bed-linen, cleaning the shit from the bathroom and maintaining the illusion of perfection. The bank keeps phoning over missing mortgage payments and she gets no answer to the voice messages she leaves for her ex, who is late with the child maintenance.

There’s an echo here of themes explored by the Dardenne brothers (Two Days, One Night) and Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake). These films show the struggle of being a worker and a single parent in a tough world. There’s a parallel also with two recent American independent films that follow women trying to survive as single parents and workers (Thousand and One and I’m Fine, Thanks for Asking). If you’ve been in the same position, such movies are not exactly escapist pleasures to seek out in the cinema, but grim reflections of reality. 

Calamy is nearly always on screen in Full Time, the handheld camera following Julie's headlong rush to get into the city despite the collapsing transport system (Calamy, pictured above). She needs to earn enough to put food on the table, buy presents for her six-year-old son’s birthday.

She’s trying to break back into her former career in marketing and juggling job interviews with shifts at the hotel. Constantly running late, Julie tries to placate the exhausted child minder and her angry hotel manager but the edges of her life are unravelling at speed and cajoling charm can only go so far.  

Calamy is probably best known as a comic actor. She was wonderful as the besotted coquette in the hit TV series Call My Agent, but she has form playing working, single mothers. In the underrated Her Way she was brilliant as a sex worker supporting a wayward teenage son while galvanising the other women in a campaign for better working conditions. 

As Julie, she’s not quite as militant. The strikes are a nightmarish inconvenience rather than a political cause she can afford to take up.  And she’s not always a good sister to her co-workers, shafting them when her own survival is at stake. The script by director Éric Gravel allows Julie to be a complex, credible character and it’s the better for not turning her into a feminist saint. 

It would have been even better if Gravel had trusted that the audience could empathise with the relentless pace of Julie’s life without resorting to a mind-numbingly repetitive electronic score. The staccato rhythm is a more suitable soundtrack for a thriller than a drama about the hell of work. But Calamy’s performance, excellent camerawork, and the visceral portrait of France's economic unrest make Full Time well worth seeing. 

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