There is an Alanis Morrisette level of irony in the Edinburgh International Film Festival screening of Full Time (A Plein Temps) taking place during a rail strike. Instantly becoming more socially relevant and increasing the audience’s empathy towards the main character.
When Julie (Laure Calamy) lands an interview for a job that will propel her from hotel maid to marketing executive, it seems her post-divorce life is about to get back on track. But the Paris transport system has ground to a halt, and she’s quickly running out of favours.
When it comes to the hero’s quest, many screenwriters have it be about, literally, preventing the end of the world. However, sometimes it is not about a giant meteor or an alien invasion causing a person’s world to fall apart. It can be as simple an act as missing a bus or a train. They may seem worlds apart in terms of scale and importance yet in the right filmmaker’s hands, each story can be equally thrilling.
Raising the stakes in your story means stripping the protagonist of something they think is crucial to achieving their goal. In Julie’s case, it is the total breakdown of the transport network in Paris due to a strike.
Writer-director Eric Gravel does a terrific job of showing us the fragility of Julie’s world. The tiresome commute, the stressful job, overdue mortgage payments and the old lady who looks after her kids has reached the end of her tether. Then slowly but surely building suspense by putting obstacles in her way. This is enhanced by the pulsating score by Irène Drésel. Even though the trains and buses may have ground to a halt, the music keeps the drama moving at a breakneck pace.
Laure Calamy delivers an exceptional performance. One which rightly won her the Horizons Award for Best Actress at Venice Film Festival last year. The audience can get a palpable sense of her increasing frustration, anger and desperation as she tries to keep all of her various plates spinning whilst trying to achieve a better life for her and her family. Knowing that the slightest mistake could cause everything to come crashing down.
As the full extent of the cost of living crisis starts to take hold, Full Time is holding a mirror up to society. Resulting in one of the most relevant and frightening thrillers of the year. A breathless masterclass in execution, this is cinema at its finest.
Director: Eric Gravel
Stars: Laure Calamy, Anne Suarez, Genevieve Mnich
Runtime: 88 minutes