If you imagine the powerhouse social realism of ‘I, Daniel Blake’ shot through with the filmmaking intensity of ‘The Bourne Supremacy’, then you would be somewhere close to understanding the experience of watching Eric Gravel’s astoundingly relevant ‘Full Time’ (À Pleins Temp). A film that categorically proves that stories about the lives of real people are just as thrilling and engaging as the big budget Hollywood franchises. If not more so.
Award-winning actress Laure Calamy is Julie, a single mum of two, working as the head chambermaid at a 5-star hotel in Paris. She lives outside the city and is reliant on the train to get her to and from work every day. But with a national transit strike in place, she is finding it ever more difficult to make the commute. Her ex is behind in alimony payments, she is struggling for childcare, and the strike is making her late for work, which is putting her on the radar of the hotel’s management.
This is the last thing she needs right now, as she has an interview for a job that will help secure her future, but she needs time away from the hotel in order to attend it. As far as the plot goes, that is essentially it for ‘Full Time’. Just an ordinary person trying to make ends meet, in a cost-of-living crisis, during a strike. I can’t imagine there is any other film anywhere right now that hits closer to home than this.
Even if this had been shot with the quiet naturalistic style of Ken Loach or the Dardenne brothers, ‘Full Time’ would have been a powerful film. Gravel ups the stakes considerably however, by shooting Julie’s story like a thriller. Because that is exactly what this is for her, and all the other people who are clinging on for dear life right now. Every day is a frightening nightmare of obstacles and challenges to overcome.
Instead of evil villains though, it’s the neighbour who can no longer take care of your kids whilst you’re at work, or an uncaring boss, or a snitching co-worker, or someone who doesn’t pick up when you call, or an unreliable replacement bus service. These mundane things of everyday life take on overwhelming significance, and through Gravel’s razor-sharp script, Calamy’s extraordinary and magnetic performance, and the immediacy of the filmmaking, you are left breathless by it all.
A shoutout must also go to Irène Drésel, whose throbbing electro score adds a further level of intensity to proceedings, and keeps the drama of Julie’s life moving at whirlwind speed.
There’s no word as yet as to whether ‘Full Time’ will be getting a wider release in the UK. It will probably get a digital release at some point, but I hope it gets to be seen in cinemas, where you can feel the full experience of this perfectly executed social-realist-thriller. Easily one of the best films of 2022 so far.