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  • Colin Fraser


FOUR AND A HALF STARS A single mother commutes to Paris for work. A train strike throws all her plans in the air.


Starring Laure Calamy, Anne Suarez

Julie is a single mother trying to bring up two children in a village outside Paris. She works as a housekeeper for an upscale hotel in the middle of the city, dropping the kids with an elderly neighbour before dawn. She then makes the long commute to work each day while juggling school, bath time, birthdays, weekends, food, finances and every other weighty chore common to every parent.

But recently things have got really complicated. Her ex hasn’t paid child support and won’t answer his phone. The bank is on her back, her child minder is getting tired of minding and, to round things off, a rolling train strike makes commuting near impossible. She resorts to hitch-hiking when the replacement bus is full and while her employer understands, they’re losing patience. Like most of Paris, and certainly like Julie.

Writer / director Eric Gravel has crafted an exceptional drama about the impossibility of striking a work-life balance when work and life have other plans. He packs a lot into a short run time - did I mention Julie’s also trying to get a better job, sneaking away from the hotel for interviews? Her life, and Gravel’s film, is nothing if not exhausting.

The director ratchets up tension in clever ways (notably a shrewd, pulsing soundtrack) as the problems in Julie’s world escalate in seemingly unmanageable ways. Robust cinematography and astute use of locations are a part of what makes it all so compelling, but it’s the incredible central performance of Laure Calamy that makes FULL TIME such a terrific film. Better known for the kooky, hysterical comedy of CALL MY AGENT and ANTOINETTE IN THE CÉVENNES, she is completely inhabits this straight role of a woman desperately trying to keep all the plates in her life spinning. It’s sensational work.

While the story would be deeply familiar to any double-jobbing, low-income, cross-town commuter trying to keep his or her family afloat (what’s the fuss about?), this is a distressing experience for the rest of us. Julie doesn’t get a break, and Gravel makes sure you don’t get one either. He grabs you by the scruff of the neck just before her alarm goes off, and never lets go.



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