Review: Full Time Creates a Life in Constant Motion as Single Mom Fights to Keep Her Life Together
Full Time is set in Paris, that glamorous city of our dreams—but everything that happens to our heroine, Julie (Laure Calamy) happens every day to single moms everywhere trying to keep their families and their lives together in low-wage jobs. Is Full Time a thriller? Not in the usual dramatic sense, but your heart will skip a beat at every tense moment that threatens Julie’s life. Full Time is the second film for French Canadian screenwriter/director Éric Gravel (Crash Test Aglaé).
We know very little about Julie’s past; we only know her in the moment, beginning with the first scene, where we hear her deep breathing just before the alarm goes off, setting her off on her day of constant motion. Get the kids ready for school, get their breakfast, catch the commuter train to her job in Paris… But when there’s an extended national transit strike, Julie’s life is upended. She’s head chambermaid in a luxury hotel in the center of Paris and her boss is unsympathetic to her commuting and childcare problems.
Breakneck speed is the theme of Full Time. Julie is in motion every moment. Dashing to a train that won’t run, finding a bus that will, or talking her way into a ride in someone’s car. And hitchhiking, her last resort for commuting. She makes sure all the hotel rooms are made up properly and finagles a few hours off so she can interview for a better job.
Her paycheck is barely enough to support her and her two small children. Her ex-husband (Alex, a voice on the phone) forgets to send the alimony checks. But Julie is content living in her distant Paris suburb because she can provide a better life there for her two small children, Chloe (Sasha Lemaitre Cremaschi) and Nolan (Nolan Arizmendi).
Gravel and Victor Seguin, director of photography, contrast the colors of that warm and cheerful suburban village setting with a cold, gray, dark and often rainy Paris, where Julie rushes to work each day. The film is set in late fall or early winter when the sun rises late and sets early. Scenes of Julie hitchhiking or running to get to work never benefit from sunshine, blue sky or Paris landmarks.
Laure Calamy is known for playing Noémie in “Call My Agent,” the French TV series, and for the 2020 film, My Donkey, My Lover & I, for which she won the César Award for Best Actress. She’s nominated for that award for her performance in Full Time.
Calamy’s performance is magnetic; she dominates nearly every scene in the film. Her face and voice are expressive and you know immediately what her character is feeling at every moment. One scene that will resonate with every mom is when, at the end of a long, tough day, Julie relaxes in a bath. But her respite is brief because Nolan bursts into the bathroom to tell her he had a scary dream.
Some film reviews have referred to Calamy’s character as a SuperWoman. But as any working mother with small children will tell you, Julie is simply Every Mom.
Full Time opens Friday, February 10, at the Music Box Theatre.
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Nancy S Bishop
Nancy S. Bishop is publisher and Stages editor of Third Coast Review. She’s a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and a 2014 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. You can read her personal writing on pop culture at nancybishopsjournal.com, and follow her on Twitter @nsbishop. She also writes about film, books, art, architecture and design.