Directed by Claude Miller starring Sandrine Kiberlain, Nicole Garcia and Mathilde Seigner.

Betty (Kiberlain) is an acclaimed first time novelist who has recently moved back to France from the US with her toddler son Joseph. Having spent many years estranged from her unhinged mother Margot (Garcia), Betty must find room for the older woman in her comfortable life when she comes to Paris for medical tests.

Across town in the dingy flat blocks lives Carole (Seigner), a goodtime girl with little interest in her four-year-old Jose and too much in any creep that throws her the eye. Three women leading very different lives, but when Joseph dies in an accident and Margot takes drastic measures to try and console her daughter, a child pulls their destinies together.

Based on the Ruth Rendell book 'Tree of Hands', Miller's film is an ingenious and often harrowing look at damaged people and how families can offer either despair or consolation. Focussing on three mothers, the film digs deep into the emotional pit as it examines their attitudes towards their children. Betty can't forgive herself for the death of Joseph, Margot wants Betty to forgive what she did to her as a child and Nicole blames Jose for the problems in her vapid existence. It's never comfortable viewing but by contrasting the tenderness and soul searching of Betty with the callousness of Nicole and Margot jumping to either extreme, there is enough light and shade to keep you on edge.

The adult male characters are all depicted as either weak or desperate for someone to tell them what to do, with Miller cleverly showing how they complicate the lives of the three women. And as the film progresses, characters from each woman's story cross over into the other two, with the narratives looking like a maze of everything that is right and wrong with humanity.

Miller brilliantly knits it all together at the close and, while you can argue that it's just a little too convenient and perfect that the right are rewarded and the wrong punished, the whole film is carried off with such great performances and a detached but engrossing style that you'll be running it over in your head long after the final credits roll.

Harry Guerin