Films about women almost always turn out to be magnetic fields of stereotype and generalization — mostly because it’s so much easier to categorize and define the collective female experience (comprised of familiar landmarks such as endless chores and thwarted desires). We’ve heard that famous line from Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” — the one where she declares that a woman is never born a woman but becomes one, more or less to match the specifications of society’s standards — but nothing about how a man gets to be a man.

“Meres et Filles,” however, is cut from a different cloth, and though the story deals heavily with classic women’s issues, like pregnancy, motherhood and the balance of life and work, the overall result is an intricate, intimate painting instead of a slogan- defined poster. Observing three women from three different generations (the 1950s, 1970s and present day), “Meres et Filles” keeps you riveted without resorting to the usual tactics of so many women’s movies: no tears, no screams, no sex. Yet the drama is palpable, scorching the edges of a deceptively placid landscape.

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