TORONTO: What if there was a test that could determine for certain that you and your partner are in love? Set in a near-distant future, Greek director’s Christos Nikou’s English debut “Fingernails” toys with that idea but the end result falls flat.
The sci-fi sees Anna (Jessie Buckley) on a job hunt after the school she worked for closes down. She lands a position at the love institute run by Duncan (Luke Wilson). This is an establishment that dedicates all its efforts to testing couples on whether they are truly in love with each other.
Anna and her partner Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) received a positive test early into their relationship and have settled into a predictable routine at home that no longer excites Anna. Enter, Amir (Oscar-winner Riz Ahmed), Anna’s charming co-worker who helps her find her feet as they start running tests with clients and ultimately collect their fingernails for the final result. As weeks go on and despite Anna’s 100% test with her partner, Amir and Anna fall for each other which contradicts their entire career.
Buckley and Ahmed have instant chemistry as coworkers who root for their clients and share the same optimism for love but the real issue lies within the script. Director and writer Christos Nikou had an opportunity to take this “Black Mirror” style idea and turn it into something thrilling with higher stakes and gorier shots, instead it cuts away whenever fingernails are pulled and there’s no consequence for people if they step out of their test-proven matches.
Aside from a lackluster screenplay, the score and cinematography match the eerie theme at hand and the pressures that our heroine faces with her conflicted feelings. The performances from Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White and Luke Wilson carry the film and do what they can, especially Jessie Buckley who swaps her thick Irish accent for a convincing American one and is luminous throughout the film.
Though the film Nikou’s message is clear — love is not a science and can’t be manufactured or determined by a machine and while the film is shot on 35mm making it seem better and more artistic than it is, “Fingernails” fails to live up to its full potential.
"Fingernails" played as a part of the Special Presentation program at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.