Best-known for her endearing and hilarious role as devoted assistant Noemie in the hit French series Call My Agent!, Laure Calamy’s star has risen as she tackles the full gamut of roles, from comedy to art house drama to nail-biting thriller. Her latest is Full Time, released theatrically in the US by Music Box Films on February 3.
In Full Time, writer-director Éric Gravel puts Calamy through her paces in this frantic drama that feels like a thriller, even though it is about a divorced working mother in Paris trying to keep her small family afloat against the backdrop of strikes and riots. Gravel has come up with an original and very French screenplay — the film is as much a societal critique of gender, class, and who controls the means of production as it is a deeply moving drama about a single mom doing her best.
Calamy’s character, Julie, is desperately trying to hold onto her job as a hotel chambermaid in a fancy Paris hotel, and cling to her slightly tatty but bucolic French existence which has become a safe respite for her and her two small children.
But the commute into Paris is long and unforgiving and when strikes cripple the transport infrastructure her routine is thrown into chaos as she carpools, hitchhikes, and runs across the hostile exurban terrain to get to work, while the safety of her children and her own sanity hang in the balance.
Part domestic drama, part upstairs-downstairs commentary, part taut thriller, Full Time will have you asking questions about having it all, why classism and sexism are still with us, and how much one person can take when an endless stream of obstacles — some self-generated, some imposed by socio-economic inequities — pile up in an increasingly uncooperative world.
It is hinted at that Julie drank a little too much in the past and her ex-husband is now overseas and not responding to her pleas to deposit the child support in her bank account, which allows her to scrape by. She looks for distractions and salvation from friends, neighbors and fellow employees as she strives to balance her dream of family life with the crushing economic reality of what it takes to raise two kids in an inflationary and increasingly unstable world. Can Julie get to work, get home again to her kids, and get a better job that will propel her up one rung of the ladder in life…or will she lose it all?
Full Time won the Best Director and Best Actress awards at the Venice Film Festival (Horizons), was selected for MOMA and Film at Lincoln Center’s New Directors New Films series, and received four César Award nominations for Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Original Score. The pulsing score by César nominee Irène Drésel, the compelling handheld camera technique, and the tight editing by César nominee Mathilde van de Moortel all conspire to create a throbbing urgency as we follow Julie’s plight.
It’s a thrill to watch Calamy, whose toothy smile, wide empathic eyes and prominent nose are as expressively effective in this serious cinematic offering as they are in the slick showbiz satire of Call My Agent! She is surely one of the most talented and committed actresses of her generation and in Full Time she gives it her all, physically and emotionally, for a character who is rarely depicted: a working mother on the brink of a breakdown as she battles the odds. Gender roles aside, though, there is a metaphor and a lesson in Full Time for all of us.
Full Time is released on Friday, February 3rd in New York (Quad Cinema), followed by Los Angeles (Laemmle Royal) on Friday, February 10th and a national rollout.