Full Time

Full Time is a realist drama that puts us in the shoes of a single mother who's facing various work, childcare and financial pressures, shot with the propulsion of a Paul Greengrass or Safdie brothers thriller

Film Review by Philip Concannon | 19 May 2023
  • Full Time
Film title: Full Time
Director: Éric Gravel
Starring: Laure Calamy, Anne Suarez, Cyril Gueï, Lucie Gallo, Irina Muluile, Geneviève Mnich
Release date: 26 May
Certificate: 12A

Full Time opens in the half-light of the early morning, with the credits unfurling over the slumbering form of Julie (Laure Calamy). The camera is inches from her face and the only sound we hear is her heavy breathing as she snoozes through the final minutes before her alarm rings. Enjoy this moment of calm, because such peaceful interludes are few and far between in Éric Gravel’s nerve-jangling film.

From the moment Julie rises and starts her day, Gravel begins ratcheting up the tension. She has to get her two uncooperative children fed, dressed and out to the childminder before racing to catch the train to Paris, where she works as a chambermaid in a five-star hotel. All of this morning madness will be wearyingly familiar for countless single mothers, but Gravel shoots such quotidian scenes with an urgency that makes every action feel like a matter of life and death. The unstable handheld camerawork, aggressive jump-cuts and the constant presence of Irène Drésel’s propulsive score feels more influenced by Paul Greengrass and the Safdie brothers than is customary for a tale of everyday working-class life.

Gravel’s goal is to place us firmly in Julie’s shoes, and to make us feel her growing anxiety as she tries to navigate the various time and financial pressures that threaten to consume her. Julie’s ex has failed to send this month’s alimony, the bank keeps calling, her childminder wants to quit, the boiler doesn’t work, she has a child’s birthday party to plan and pay for. A small beacon of hope on the horizon is the possibility of a new job in marketing, and a return to the career she left four years earlier, but how can she escape from the constant surveillance of her current employers to attend the interview? And how do you even make it from A to B on time when strikes have crippled the Parisian transport network?

The relentless accumulation of obstacles in a span of a few days can feel like a bit too much, but Full Time is potent and gripping as a portrait of how modern life squeezes us dry and pushes us to the edge, making us feel like we are just one slip away from complete disaster. The look of desperation in Julie’s eyes when she realises her job is in peril speaks volumes about how thin the thread is that keeps people afloat, and how easily an employer can cut you adrift.

Anyone who has tensed up as they wait to see if a card payment goes through will surely recognise the anxiety that flickers across Laure Calamy’s face at the supermarket checkout; as this wonderfully empathetic actress demonstrated in Cécile Ducrocq’s Her Way (2021), she is adept at playing a woman struggling to maintain equilibrium and momentum as life pulls her in multiple directions at once. For Julie, every day is both a marathon and a sprint, and like her, you find yourself yearning for respite as you watch Full Time, craving an opportunity to just breathe.

Released 26 May by Parkland Entertainment; certificate 12A

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