Dir: Claude Mourieras. France. 2000. 94 mins.

Prod co: Rezo Productions. Int'l sales: Flach Pyramide International (+33 1 4296 0220). Prods: Jean-Michel Rey, Philippe Liegeois. Scr: Mourieras. DoP: William Lubtchansky. Prod des: Wouter Zoon. Editor: Monique Dartonne. Main cast: Michel Piccoli, Miou Miou, Sandrine Kiberlain, Natach Regnier.

No big build-up: in true French style, we're straight into the affectionate bickering of the three sisters around whom this assured feature revolves. Director Claude Mourieras has a past in documentaries, and a flat, uninvasive camera style is used here to ward off the call of melodrama in this story of buried family tensions, stirred up by the return of an absentee father (Michel Piccoli, in one of his best roles for some time). The dialogue is sharp, and the film takes care to keep the audience guessing, first about who the old man is, and second about the sisters' real feelings and motivations. Domestic audiences should give this film a decent run, quota or no quota.

At first, we are in familiar three sisters territory, with the classic conflicts and rivalries. The eldest, Laura (Miou Miou) gives tango lessons; the difficult middle one, Beatrice (Sandrine Kiberlain, a sort of Gallic Lisa Kudrow, only better) is a successful businesswoman; and the youngest, Claire (Natach Regnier) is a pianist who lives in a squat and keeps her talent under a very large bushel. Along comes papa, who did a bunk fifteen years before and who thinks nothing of using emotional blackmail to get what he wants. The resultant split in the sisters' united front is charted without forfeiting the wit of the first half of the film.

The casting is excellent, and it is the solid performances of all four main actors that lifts Tout Va Bien above its wobbly minor characters (the boyfriends of the three sisters) and the dullness (intentional, one assumes) of its setting - a Lyon that could be just about anywhere else in France. This well-crafted film should plug into the usual overseas markets for quality French fare.