‘Full Time’ Review: No Rest for the Working Girl

A breathlessly tense portrait of modern labor, this French drama stars Laure Calamy as a single mother who hits her breaking point during a nationwide strike.

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By Beatrice Loayza

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“Full Time,” the second feature by Éric Gravel, begins with a womblike moment of rest before pushing the pedal to the floor and launching us into the chaotic workweek of Julie (Laure Calamy), a single mother and the lead chambermaid of a 5-star hotel in Paris.

Julie’s routine is demanding yet commonplace: She drops the kids at the nanny’s house, rushes to make the train, endures a lengthy shoulder-to-shoulder commute and settles into her shift tending to the whims of the hyper-wealthy. Then it’s back to the exurbs and the restless little ones, while the slivers of time she manages to carve out for herself are consumed by applying for a new job. Then repeat.

The film is a portrait of modern labor that moves with the breathless tension of a Safdie brothers’ joint. But instead of gangsters and cocaine, it finds a flurried momentum in one ordinary woman’s everyday obligations, which threaten to break her when a nationwide strike throws her tenuous act off balance.

Unpredictable public transport delays and cancellations get the worker bee in trouble with her snooty boss and septuagenarian nanny, while taxi rides that cost triple the rate of a regular ride drain her bank account. Her ex-husband hasn’t paid his alimony and hasn’t been answering his phone, and it’s their eldest child’s birthday this weekend. Improvisation is necessary, from hitchhiking to nudging the doorman for favors, but Julie — given anxious verve by the always-magnetic Calamy — isn’t a shameless hustler so much as she is acting sheepishly out of necessity.

Julie isn’t in a position to throw off her uniform and hit the streets in protest, but the movement (and the inconveniences it causes) isn’t the problem — it’s a symptom. Worked to the bone because of her inability to find decent employment and child care, because her supervisor only values her insofar as she obeys like a robot, Julie is a veritable Everywoman, in thrall to a system that demands productivity at every turn. Such a life makes one brittle, but there are no breaks.

Full Time
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes. In theaters.

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