The premise of Fingernails is very interesting. The story takes place in a never-before-revealed era: retrofuturist aesthetics, absence of technology, widespread normcore fashion. However, there is a machine that can provide scientific proof that two people are meant for each other. You just have to be willing to sacrifice a nail. The result will be 100%, 50% – if only one of the two is really in love – or 0%.
Anna (Jessie Buckley) and Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) tested positive three years ago. A routine has established itself between the two and it suits them perfectly. For no apparent reason, Anna’s certified certainty begins to crumble. She observes the lovebirds around and wonders.
A teacher, she lies to her boyfriend about a new position she has just obtained in a school. Instead, she was hired at the Love Training Institute. Duncan (Luke Wilson) runs the establishment, which for the past year has been offering various services to its client couples with the aim of strengthening the bond between them so that they increase their chances of passing the test. Anna is trained by Amir (Riz Ahmed), a reserved but creative and romantic man.
The new colleagues become closer and the relationship between Anna and Ryan is shaken. None of this will be done dramatically – perhaps except for one scene. The characters in Fingernails are mostly phlegmatic. The famous test is a frequent and somewhat controversial topic of discussion, but no one seems passionately in love. Or particularly jovial. Canadian actors Christian Meer and Amanda Arcuri play the only pair truly animated by mutual affection.
This is the first English-language film from Greek director Christos Nikou (Apples). The screenplay, written with Sam Steiner and Stavros Raptis, perhaps wanted to demonstrate that love is not simple. And that the real thing is rare and inexplicable. The lack of justification for Anna’s dissatisfaction is frustrating. Again, this is perhaps the desired effect…
Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter, I’m Thinking of Ending Things) captures Anna’s ambivalence well. His melancholy and curiosity form a beautiful opposition to the very certain nature of life in Fingernails. Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal, The Night Of) is also very convincing in the role of the hermetic specialist in love who struggles to find it. Finally, Jeremy Allen White (The Bear and Shameless series) is a perfect boyfriend.
Drawing inspiration from the eccentricity of Yórgos Lánthimos and the aesthetics of Wes Anderson is certainly a good basis for a feature film, but there is a lack of love – the ingredient – in Christos Nikou’s recipe to completely charm us.