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Review | Reverse – A thrilling race against precariousness in the streets of Paris

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With the brilliant Laure Calamy (My vacation with Patrick), Contratempos is a contemporary reading on the precariousness of work.

Driven by the reality of the urban chaos experienced by the French between December/2019 and January/2020, director and screenwriter Eric Gravel immerses us in the whirlwind of emotions of a few days in the life of Julie Roy (Laure Calamy). During the public transport strike in the French capital, the housekeeper and single mother of two children gets down on all fours to carry out her daily tasks.

Without going into the details of the transport stoppage, Contratempos (in the original, Full Time) focuses on Julie’s struggle to attend her job at a fancy hotel and take care of her children. If transport from the suburbs to the center of Paris was already difficult, with the outbreak of the strike, things became almost unbearable.

So what does Julie do? Use your legs. Run from side to side. His job is the breadwinner of the family, but not his real area of ​​expertise. Between vacuuming the carpets and cleaning up the excrement on the walls, she tries to find a job at a quality food company. Your real field of study.

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Note that in 2020 there was another strike in France: that of the chambermaids. With inflexible hours, unpaid wages and the demand for maximum speed, the profession has become the symbol of a class struggle. The week we follow Julie is the beginning of the protests against the pension reform and precarious work proposed by the French president at the time.

If, on the one hand, the strike disrupts the lives of the workers, on the other hand, it is put into practice to help them in the future. Yet we are immediate beings and we want to solve our problems today without thinking about tomorrow. Brilliant actress Laure Calamy – known for the hilarious Noémie from Netflix’s Ten Percent (2015-2020) – has on-screen dominance and intense survival strength to portray all people who live on that threshold.

Each look of the protagonist conveys dozens of feelings. As a mother, she doesn’t have time to get tired, her morning routine is a mix of attempted dialogue and command. Affectionate and hardworking, she mixes the education of her children with some restrictions and the fulfillment of her wishes. She buys, for example, a trampoline and takes her children to the amusement park, even on a tight budget.

And the children’s father? Despite Julie’s insistent requests, he doesn’t even call on his son’s birthday. With the strike, she does not arrive home in time to pick up the children from the neighbor’s house and thus also loses one of her support networks. Looking for a job related to her studies, Julie bends over backwards to run in stilettos through the cobbled streets of Paris and arrive on time for one of her interviews.

It’s the key week in Julie’s life, whatever can happen happens and the world around her can’t stop helping her. We walk with her through every choice, twist, and obstacle during this week of inconvenience, asking ourselves: If it were me, would I do the same?

Contratempos is a cathartic and liberating film. It exposes the superpowers of normal people – like you and me – in pursuit of their goals. The scenario is short because it presents a key moment of tension in the big cities and thus causes an explosion of emotions in this small space of observation. The ending is redemptive, as it makes us feel that fighting for our ideals is worth it.

Contratempos was released at the 2022 Varilux French Film Festival. Distributed by Bonfilm, the feature will be released in national theaters on November 10, 2022.

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