' ' Cinema Romantico: Full Time

Monday, March 27, 2023

Full Time

At several points in “Full Time,” Julie (Laurie Calamy) launches into a dead sprint. She looks for all the world like Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” or Franka Potente in “Run Lola Run.” Julie, though, is not chasing after the bad guy or running to and fro to try and save her boyfriend from a ruthless gangster. No, she is a single mother of two just trying to get to the train to carry her from the Parisian suburbs into Paris to her five-star hotel chambermaid job or get from the train to the job itself so she can clock in on time. It’s evocative of director Eric Gravel’s agile approach, utilizing the frenetic aesthetic of a high-octane thriller for a working-class drama. Kitchen sink indies and newspaper op-eds might suggest that getting to work on time or finding daycare for your kids are matters of life and death, but “Full Time” gloriously, thrillingly, frighteningly lives it out.

Gravel foreshadows his in-your-face style from the opening image of a sleeping Julie in hyper-close-up, her breath audible on the soundtrack, implicitly suggesting she hardly has room to breathe. And when the alarm clock goes off to summon her awake, she lingers for a moment on the edge of her bed, a recurring image throughout that fees like the Sonny & Cher bit from “Groundhog Day” retrofit for a Dardenne Brothers joint, one lone weary moment of reflection before she plunges into the relentless 24-hour chaos. As the title impies, “Full Time” never really stops, as one character (too) overtly says, plunging us into its story just as it plunges Julie into her day, into her whole life. The throbbing synth score is reminiscent of “Uncut Gems” and so is the overwhelming house of cards narrative sensation, how Julie’s childcare situation is threatening to give way, how she is trying to interview for another job but has to finagle ways to do it without clocking off from her current job that escalates to the point where her various solutions for getting out and keeping on all threaten to run out at once.

Given the movie’s propulsion, it would have been easy for Julie to fade from view as a character even though she’s in every scene, but both Calamy and the movie itself inject humanity throughout. You see it straight away in how Julie walks her daughter and son to the nanny, listening to them, smiling at them, present, and then, when the nanny closes the door, the smile dissolving as she almost instantaneously breaks into a run for the train, the demarcation line between mom and employee. The line between the dual roles of mom, meanwhile, are glimpsed throughout, in how Julie balances birthday party planning, even acquiring a trampoline, with the endless aspects of everything else, the moment in which she tries putting that trampoline together herself an emblem of home assembly as herculean struggle. The dad who helps Julie put the finishing touches on the trampoline set-up would have emerged as a love interest in another movie, but the way Julie inadvertently douses that seeming potential feels not just quietly embarrassing but a sign of something deeper, an overworked single mother who has lost the innate sense of how to be. Her chambermaid job, meanwhile, between her direct boss and a new employee she is tasked to train lays out an entire labor structure in which everyone is essentially hung out to dry and as such reduced to acting in their own best interest.

The transit strike remains conspicuously distant even as it nominally drives all the action. This is not a flaw. A significant shot finds Julie at the mirror, applying makeup, readying for another day as a news report in the background provides background and updates on the strike. In this moment, Calamy has Julie barely react, nay, not react all, more focused on applying makeup, not blocking out the news, because she has it on after all, but putting into perspective how the politics of labor so frequently becomes white noise to those laboring on the bottom rungs. Political power, government action, collective demand, when you’re up against it because your whole life is on the clock, these can be hard to imagine, making it seem, whether true or not, that some sort of supernatural occurrence is the only way out. Indeed, if the conclusion comes across a little miraculous, that’s precisely what it is: an earthly miracle. 

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