How do you quantify love? Since the birth of the human race, we have been fascinated with the word and its implications and, as we evolved, we began to ask even more questions about what it is to love or be in love. As we passed into the new century, the world of technology became much more integral to our relationship with love and passion, speed dating morphed into dating apps and social media presented its challenges. Still, it has raised many more thoughts and questions than we can answer. In film and television, We have seen filmmakers tackle some of this head-on, adding their spin to modern love and, of course, dealing with the heartbreak and darker side of it, too. Fingernails is the latest to have a stab at trying to delve into present-day love and dating with sweet, interesting, and slightly squeamish results.
Welcome to The Love Institute, the brainchild of Duncan (Luke Wilson) who is helping people find love without apps or algorithms, but through a series of tests that will lead, ultimately, to finding out their compatibility through their fingernails. The film begins with a quote from an unknown scientist which states: “The earliest signs of heart problems are often found in the spotting, bending, or discoloration of fingernails” and, so, logically, true love will be detected through alpha-keratin. Anna (Jessie Buckley), who scored 100% with her partner Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) is fascinated by the process and soon gets a job at the centre alongside tester Amir (Riz Ahmed) but as they begin to work more closely, Anna begins to wonder whether her tests were accurate for the wrong person.
The English language debut of Greek director Christos Nikou, who worked with Yorgos Lanthimos on some of his earlier films, Fingernails showcases his eccentric, mysterious style as he continues to fuse his learnings from the Poor Things director and the Greek New Wave whilst merging it with some of his American counterparts, namely Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze and more. Indeed, almost instantaneously – as you would with many modern love films of a similar ilk – you will be thinking about Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Her and their delves into the world of dating in the technological era but Fingernails has its own ideas, and while they don’t all coalesce as profoundly as those titans of the sub-genre, nor cut quite as deep emotionally, philosophically or metaphysically, there’s much here to devour in its exploration to find the perfect match and of how, as we all know too well, love hurts.
In fact, in some ways, it has more in common with the mechanics of Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Maniac, a show that used technology through a series of tests designed to have patients confront their minds. Led by another barnstorming turn from Jessie Buckley, who, if you didn’t know already, is magnificent in everything she does, and Riz Ahmed with perhaps his most sincere turn yet, the two provide the film’s centre and together are a true match made in heaven, in every sense of the word. There is an ease in the way the two perform together and with all the scientific eccentricities at the film’s centre, they help anchor it all whilst fingernails come and go and love ebbs and flows. We hate to say Fingernails is a “lite” version of some of those aforementioned films, but despite its warmth and smarts, it’s a fingernail length from hitting the same heights.
2023 | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi | Apple Original Films | In select cinemas and on Apple TV now | Dir: Christos Nikou | Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White, Annie Murphy, Luke Wilson | Read our interview with Christos Nikou