‘Full Time’ Would Feel Somewhat Empty Without Laure Calamy

If the director and screenwriter Eric Gravel hasn’t sent a thank-you note and a dozen roses to casting director Youna De Peretti, he doesn’t know how good he’s got it.

Via Music Box Films
Laure Calamy in ‘Full Time.’ Via Music Box Films

What would “Full Time,” the second feature from screenwriter and director Eric Gravel, be without Laure Calamy? 

Film is a collaborative medium, for sure, one in which the individual at the helm both orchestrates and responds to the crew, the actors, and a host of unforeseen contingencies. Yet one is hard-pressed to imagine “Full Time” being quite as good as it is without the considerable cinematic appeal of Ms. Calamy. If Mr. Gravel hasn’t sent a thank-you note and a dozen roses to casting director Youna De Peretti, he doesn’t know how good he’s got it.

American audiences know Ms. Calamy for her performance as Noémie Leclerc in the Netflix television series “Call My Agent,” as well as last year’s “My Donkey, My Lover & I,” in which her character negotiated extramarital liaisons, the hills of south-central France, and a headstrong equine. She has been around for a while as a stage actress, as well having landed a variety of supporting roles in movies and television.

Ms. Calamy is front-and-center during the tidy 88 minutes of Mr. Gravel’s picture. Although describing a film as seeming longer than its actual running time is usually not considered a compliment, “Full Time” succeeds by being true, and then some, to its title. The movie details one harried week in the life of a divorced single mother of two small children. Julie Roy (Ms. Calamy) is the head chambermaid in an upscale Parisian hotel, traveling in and out of the city each day from a remote suburb.

The alarm clock is a major player in “Full Time,” as is Mme. Lusigny (Geneviève Mnich), an elderly neighbor who serves as nanny to Julie’s children, Nolan (Nolan Arizmendi) and Chloé (Sasha Lemaitre Cremaschi). There’s a cadre of chambermaids who figure prominently, as does Sylvie (Anne Suarez), Julie’s boss — who is almost a friend but not exactly. The antagonist of the film is an on-strike French public sector that puts a monumental crimp in the public transportation system.

New Yorkers who’ve had their subway trip upended due to this signal malfunction or that police action will feel Julie’s pain, except that Mr. Gravel amplifies transit impediments to a degree that would’ve given pause to Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd. Still, the hallmark of “Full Time” isn’t absurdity, but desperation. When Julie has an interview for a job that would provide a significant step up the economic ladder, we expect the worst: Paris will and does suffer headache-inducing embouteillage.

“Full Time” moves at a frantic pace, with its fractured rhythms being emblematic of the ordeals navigated — just barely — by its main character. When the camera isn’t closing in on Ms. Calamy to an almost discomfiting degree (the opening scene pretty much renders the actress an abstraction), it scampers along as she sprints from the train station to the bus stop and, sometimes, to the side of the highway in order to hitch a ride.

We are, in fact, relieved when Julie has the rare moment to catch her breath and experience something outside the contingencies of earning a living — say, the tender and embarrassing moment she has with Vincent (Cyril Gueï), a parent of one of Nolan’s schoolmates, or when a begrudging Mme. Lusigny admits to missing her charges. For the most part, though, Julie chases: after that cab, that errant ex-husband, and that next paycheck.

Mr. Gravel’s picture bears some comparison to the recently released “One Fine Morning,” not only because of the French locales but due to its emphasis on the often trying routines of everyday life. “Full Time” isn’t as good nor does it ring as true, sacrificing, as it does, intimacy and measure for showy flourishes of cinematic form. But, then, Ms. Calamy grounds the picture with her crooked smile and buoyant good will, making the not-quite-expected denouement all the more satisfying.

The New York Sun

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