London Film Festival 2023: ‘Fingernails’ Review
Director: Christos Nikou
Writer: Christos Nikou, Sam Steiner, Stavros Raptis
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White
Where To Watch: Now streaming on Apple TV+
Our Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Where is our technological evolution taking us? As the industry defrosts from a two-fold strike with the threat of artificial intelligence at the heart of the contention, Christos Nikous’ Fingernails appears, almost, to come out at the perfect time. The premise of the film feels drawn from the early days of Brooker’s Black Mirror: what if an algorithm could define love? In the near future, where people dress in familiar clothes, listen to familiar songs, and order familiar terrible takeaway soup, a machine has been developed that uses this algorithm to state with biological certainty whether a couple are romantically compatible for life, or whether it’ll fizzle out as life moves on. This test, as the title would suggest, involves the removal of a fingernail (usually the pinky) from both partners and then, once the machine whirs away, a percentage on screen will give you your heart in black and white. It causes an upset for lab-worker Anna (Jessie Buckley) who feels inexplicably drawn to her new coworker Amir (Riz Ahmed) as her romantic feelings for her love-test approved lock-in Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) dwindle.
With such an absurdly intriguing premise and a voraciously talented cast Fingernails should be an entertaining watch. However, Nikous’ film lacks any sense of the deeper questions spurred by such an invention. Instead, we’re presented with a relatively twee two hours in the company of people who love love and accept that this impossibly-sprawling concept — which has been philosophised over for centuries — has been mastered by science and functions not at all that different to a pregnancy test. There is little defiance, only upset, and Fingernails depends too much on the subtle dedication of Buckley’s talent to sell even the suggestion of disappointment in the algorithm. Coupled with the blandness of Allen White’s Ryan (he isn’t afforded enough to shine like we know him too), and the unwavering earnestness of Amir (he isn’t afforded the words to say anything of particular note about the situation), what has the opportunity to be a tale of rebellion against this techno-intervention in our hearts, Fingernails instead, well, it doesn’t really say anything at all.