Greek writer/director Christos Nikou has worked with the master of the ‘Greek New Weird’ Yorgos Lanthimos, on one of his best films, Dogtooth. Nikou’s debut feature Apples had a marvellously off-kilter charm similar to the style of the aforementioned director, while also being grounded by the drama of human pain and heartbreak. For his follow-up feature, Fingernails, he sticks with matters of the heart with an English-language sci-fi film set in a world where a scientific test determines whether you are compatible with your chosen partner.
It’s not far off from where we are with dating apps, which makes for compelling viewing, but this high-concept idea plays out as a tad repetitive.
Jessie Buckley stars as Anna who has taken a new job at the ‘Love Institute’ which helps couples deepen their connection in the lead-up to their ‘test’. While there she begins to fall for her co-worker Amir (Riz Ahmed) and begins to question her positive result for true love with her boyfriend Ryan (Jeremy Allen White). There’s much to enjoy in Nikou’s world-building, including great visual gags relating to romcoms (a cinema that only shows the films of Hugh Grant) posters explaining how love grows from the human fingernail and the playing of pop songs in French because as the film explains ‘it’s romantic’.
Buckley is perfection in the central role of a woman caught in the throes of choosing passion over pragmatism. It is a joyful and deeply moving performance. Ahmed plays his role as a secretive, semi-repressed man with deadpan humour and gets a great moment to show off his emotions via a dance scene to Frankie Valli’s The Night. Allen White, too, delivers as a man confused by his partner’s deceptive behaviour, and it is the strong performances that keep you engaged as the screenplay labours its point on how painful love and relationships can be.
Fingernails was seen and reviewed at the London Film Festival. It will be released on 3 November on Apple TV+