2023 | Unrated (PG-13 equivalent) | starring Laure Calamy | written & directed by Eric Gravel | 1h 28m | In French with Subtitles |

Julie Roy (Laure Calamy, All the Animals) is a single mother living in the suburbs and working at a hotel in Paris, France stretched to the end of her means. When a transit strike in Paris breaks down her ability to get around it sends ripple effects through every corner of her life, sending her in a race to keep her job and her kids.

I love the central premise behind Full Time, that we live so over-extended and at our wits end that a social breakdown completely out of our control can send the average person scrambling to hold the pieces together. That’s the root core of the film and why it’s such a potentially delicious domestic thriller. It wants to be a Safdie Brother’s movie, like the high-anxiety day-in-the-life films Uncut Gems and Good Time. Movies that drag us along a thrilling ride with a character that survives from one bad decision to the next. Writer/director Eric Gravel isn’t quite ready to go that far leaving us in the middle of a character piece that isn’t thrilling and doesn’t say anything.

Instead of centering around a gambler or a criminal, Gravel centers the film around a single mother and the trope that single moms are the most hard working and put upon people in the world, requiring superhuman strength just to get through the day. There are too many holes in the message and potential ejection points in the story to keep the action the self-contained pressure cooker it should be. Firstly, it’s hard to look past that most of Julie’s problems are of her own making. She deliberately refuses to look for work closer to home, she fumbles an interview because of her own online activism against the very company she’s trying to work for, she relies heavily on an elderly neighbor to watch her children after hours. Like a rom-com where things could be worked out with a simple sit-down conversation, Full Time feels artificially contrived by Julie’s own stubbornness and a series of bad decisions that got her to this point.

The other release valve in the plot is that Gravel never truly leaves Julie stranded. For every problem she encounters, she finds an escape hatch – a helpful stranger giving her a ride home, a friendly neighbor coming over to fix the water heater for free. The movie inadvertently shows the opposite of what it intends, that regardless of your decisions someone will come along and throw you a lifeline. That there is a shred of a safety net out there for women like this and a society that wants to help them. The same cannot be said for movies like this with male protagonists (including the recent surreal, anxiety comedy Beau is Afraid). For those guys there is not safety net or sympathy.

Before it gets to an ending that feels like a total cop-out, Full Time is entertaining. It moves briskly and it keeps us on our toes. Calamy’s performance keeps the fire burning, showing us a 3 dimensional character with complicated sides – part a victim of circumstance and part an apathetic driver of them. Even if that might dilute the film’s message, the hyper-real nuance brough to the film by Calamy is a star-maker of a performance. I just wish Gravel had turned those screws a lot tighter.