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Full Time Laure Calamy
Image: IMDB


Full Time: A Working-Class Mother in Perpetual Motion

With the pace of an action-thriller, Full Time depicts a mother’s race along the tightrope of work/life balance.

Full Time Review

Full Time can be summed up in one phrase: “You never stop.” This line, spoken by Julie Roy’s (Laure Calamy) best friend, underscores the theme of the movie: the working-class mother never stops. 

Written and directed by Eric Gravel, Full Time is a character-driven narrative set against the backdrop of a national transit strike. Its plot is a commentary on capitalism, working class, and the perpetual demands of motherhood. The French drama was originally released at the Venice Film Festival in 2021, after many pandemic-related filming delays. Worth the long wait, Full Time’s strength lies in Laure Calamy’s deft, honest portrayal of a working single mother whose ambition is matched only by her stamina. 

While the film begins with a close-up shot of Julie sleeping deeply, the rest of the film progresses at a rapid pace, such that the audience struggles to keep up. Gravel weaves a nimble narrative with close-up camera shots, a riveting score, and lighting choices that highlight the character’s inner turmoil as she confronts countless obstacles.        

Julie is portrayed as a flawed, yet sympathetic single mother. She commutes each day to her job in a Paris hotel, where she works as a head chambermaid. A transit strike thwarts Julie’s attempts to arrive at work and pick up her children on time. While the exact length of Julie’s commute isn’t explicitly stated, it is far enough away that Julie’s nanny (Genevieve Mnich) comments she needs to find a job closer to home. Julie is firm in her resolve to continue working in Paris, as moving would mean a smaller home for her children. 

Full Time Laure Calamy
Image: Film Fest Report

Entirely dependent on mass transport, Julie is at a disadvantage. She looks for creative ways to solve her transportations woes. She runs to catch trains, rents a van, and hitchhikes to get from work to home. In the brief slots of time when Julie is at home or work, the demands of work obligations or motherhood interrupt her stillness.  

Julie has run out of favors. Her boss, Sylvie, has noted her declining performance at work and her coworkers are tired of covering for Julie’s absences. Julie has exhausted childcare options. She barters and pleads with friends, neighbors, and coworkers to find the coverage she needs at work and at home. In one moment of desperation, she asks a woman she vaguely recognizes from her children’s school if they can share childcare. Julie’s goal is to take a job interview that will give her a more comfortable financial situation to raise her family in.  

The audience is never given background information about Julie. They learn information as Julie learns it, along the frenetic pace of her day-to-day life. When Julie finally reaches the second interview for the job she has been applying for, the audience learns more about her background in those fraught several minutes than in the entire movie so far. She is applying for a job as a market researcher, below her education and experience. The company Julie had previously worked for no longer exists. There is a four-year gap in Julie’s work history. These pointed remarks from Julie’s interviewer leave more questions about her reliability.  

Reminiscent of Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run, the frantic time frame serves Julie’s steely determination. The close-up camera shots rapidly blend into one another at a shutter-speed pace. The transitions aren’t seamless. The unevenness adds to the harrowing emotional tone of the film. 

Gravel’s decision to follow Julie as she is in constant motion adds to the narrative’s urgency. Close-up shots of Julie’s face highlight the strength of Calamy’s performance. She expresses more when she is silent and in motion than she does when she is still or speaking. After spending the night in a hotel because of the strike, Julie shops for an interview ensemble. The tension and fear in her expression as she stares at the credit card machine communicates her financial insecurity. This silent tension is also palpable as Julie ignores frequent phone calls from the bank.  

Gravel captures Calamy’s silent communication effectively. Many shots focus on Julie and the other commuters as they hurry amid a blurred background. Julie’s hustle, worry, frustration, and determination are clear through the masterful flickering of Calamy’s facial expressions. The blurred scenery that whizzes by as Julie rushes from one obligation to another highlights her exhaustion. She detaches from her surroundings and focuses on making it to the next place.  

Julie’s story progresses almost like a video game. There’s a repetition to Julie’s days that she notices and tries to overcome. She knows she will be late for a job interview and calls in a favor with the doorman at the hotel to use a car in his fleet. Once Julie overcomes one obstacle, several more pop up in their wake, increasing in difficulty. Julie asks new maid Lydia to swipe her timecard for her, so she can leave early for her job interview. However, Sylvie catches Lydia, and attempts to dismiss her. Fast-taking Julie persuades Sylvie that it’s in her best interest to keep her on staff, but Julie’s perpetual lateness ultimately gets her fired. Julie looks for solutions and cheat codes, but barely keeps up. 

Full Time depicts the gritty reality of maintaining employment and childcare responsibilities in a system that offers little support to single mothers. Julie’s story is relatable and sympathetic. As a hard-working member of the working class, Julie strives for a more stable, lucrative job that can give her access to greater tools of support for herself and her family. In attempting to achieve this goal, Julie alienates her overworked nanny and equally overworked coworkers. Much like the transit workers who are on strike, Julie wants better wages and treatment from her superiors. Her story deconstructs the myth that persistent, hard work will lead to reward. 

In a moment of fraught tension, one of Julie’s coworkers snaps she is tired of the transit strike too. This small moment is enough to remind the audience that they are only seeing the repercussions of the strike in one woman’s life. The commuters alongside Julie are also fighting to make ends meet and have stories of their own.

The movie’s score was composed by French electronic musical producer, Irène Drésel. It accompanies Julie on her endless journey, with a frantic, pulsing rhythm reminiscent of a beating heart. The consistent tempo reflects the endless loop of repetition in Julie’s life. The fast-paced beat mirrors the inner turmoil the audience sees on Julie’s face, expressing her fear and urging her to pick up her pace.

Lighting also plays a significant part in the story’s structure. Julie’s commute is dark and dreary. Her simple chambermaid’s uniform and the muted lighting at the hotel render her invisible. In contrast, Julie’s time at home with her children shows a lightness in character and setting, which adds to her nuance as a protagonist. Julie makes a deal to pay off a trampoline in installments and stays up all night setting it up in time for her son’s birthday. The finished trampoline is displayed in the next scene as Julie hosts a garden birthday party. The sun-streaked yard amplifies Julie’s joy as she plays alongside the children. This lightness shows the audience the possibility of who Julie could be, without the weight of financial instability on her shoulders. 

Gravel’s choice to set Full Time at the pace of an action-packed thriller has its merits. It amplifies Julie’s internal and external struggles and keeps the audience invested in her outcome. The speed at which Julie’s day-to-day life unfolds is one that may be familiar to many, but the plot is nuanced enough that it never becomes too predictable. The ending feels earned, as though Julie, and the audience, can finally let out the breath they’ve been holding.

Written By

Danielle Cappolla is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher based in New Jersey. She has a B.A. in English from Fordham University and an M.S. in Education and Special Education from Touro College. When she’s not writing, you can find her swapping TV theories with her family and friends over dinner. You can follow her work at

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