The Movie Waffler New to VOD - FULL TIME | The Movie Waffler


A woman's attempts to land a new job are thwarted by a transport workers' strike.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Eric Gravel

Starring: Laure Calamy, Anne Suarez, Geneviève Mnich, Nolan Arizmendi, Sasha Lemaitre Cremaschi, Cyril Gueï, Lucie Gallo

Full Time poster

I've never understood French audiences' love of Ken Loach, given how France boasts several filmmakers who have done a far better job of chronicling the struggles of the working class. With his second film, Full Time, you can add writer/director Eric Gravel to that list. Utilising a filmmaking style that feels influenced by his compatriot Stephane Brize, Gravel turns a week in the life of a working stiff into a powder keg potboiler with all the tension of a heist movie. Like Parasite, it's a movie that highlights how good people are forced to take unethical action in order to simply stay afloat in the rising waters of late capitalism.

Full Time review

Julie (Laure Calamy) lives in a commuter town in the North of France but works as a head chambermaid in a five star hotel in Paris. This requires her to wake up before dawn has even considered cracking, feed her two young kids breakfast, prepare their lunch and drop them off at the put-upon elderly neighbour, Madame Lusigny (Geneviève Mnich), who spends more time raising them than their own mother. Then she hops a train to the city and begins a gruelling day of cleaning up rich people's shit, literally in some cases.

Like so many in the service industry, Julie is over-qualified for her job, and so she's constantly applying for jobs that match her background in market research. One upcoming job interview looks like it could finally be the one, but the trouble is it's scheduled during Julie's shift. Compromising her co-workers, Julie juggles things around to allow her to attend the interview, but there's also the issue of a looming public transport strike. She's also constantly being harassed by her bank for failure to pay her mortgage, and her ex-husband, who is late once again with his alimony payment, won’t answer his phone. She also has to keep sight of the fact that she's a mother, with a kid's birthday party coming up at the weekend and no presents yet purchased.

Full Time review

To paraphrase Melle Mel, Julie's life is like a jungle; it makes you wonder how she keeps from going under. She's close to the edge, trying not to lose her head. Like all the great French actresses, Calamy can switch between playing a glamorous goddess and an everyday chump with ease. As Julie, we see her deploy her charisma to get her out of scrapes, batting her lashes at a doorman in order to commandeer a taxi reserved for hotel guests, though an attempt to seduce a kindly neighbour goes disastrously wrong, likely because the man in question suspects she wants a babysitter/chauffeur rather than a lover. In a job interview Julie switches into go-getter mode, fully convincing as a product of the corporate world. But most of the time she's a put-upon victim of the daily grind, constantly rushing from one place to another (there are shots of Julie legging it through the streets that would make Tom Cruise tired) and deflecting phone calls that will land her in more trouble.

There are sequences in Full Time that feature its heroine performing relatively mundane tasks, but Gravel shoots and edits them with such energy that Julie might as well be Jason Bourne. What makes these mundane scenarios so tense is that most of us will have found ourselves in similar pickles at some point. Those of us who rely on public transport (if Julie thinks Paris is bad, try negotiating a sprawling city like Dublin that doesn't even have a functional bus service, let alone a subway) will feel Julie's pain as the simple act of getting home from a day's work begins to resemble the evacuation of Dunkirk. Even when Julie manages to get a few precious minutes alone in a tub with a glass of wine, the moment is interrupted by maternal obligations.

Full Time review

Unlike Loach, who likes to portray working people in a patronising fashion, Gravel hasn't created an angelic figure in Julie. She's so ruthless in her determination to improve her lot that she gladly sacrifices her co-workers by asking them to compromise their own positions. When Madam Lusigny complains about being stuck with Julie's kids from dawn to dusk, it's hard not to agree that Julie is exploiting her elderly neighbour. But it's the very fact that Gravel is willing to present us with a flawed protagonist that makes it so easy to empathise with Julie, and it also highlights how the system forces those on the lowest rungs to climb over others. There are no real villains in Full Time, and everyone who presents an obstacle to Julie's progress is simply trying to get by themselves, from the striking train drivers to her boss at the hotel, who we suspect has given Julie enough rope to hang herself by this point. If there's an antagonist in Gravel's film it's simply modern life, which increasingly leaves us less and less time for living.

Full Time
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews