The Movie Waffler New Release Review - FINGERNAILS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - FINGERNAILS

Fingernails review
Two co-workers defy the very science they're selling by falling for one another.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Christos Nikou

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White, Luke Wilson, Annie Murphy

Fingernails poster

The films of the movement known as the Greek Weird Wave are known for blending absurdism with a heavily misanthropic worldview. Yorgos Lanthimos protégé Christos Nikou bucked that trend with his debut, Apples. The absurdism was present in spades but Nikou combined it with a refreshingly optimistic outlook. For his English language debut, Fingernails, Nikou gives us yet another tale of romance blossoming in absurd surroundings.

Apples took its title from a notion of that fruit helping with memory. Fingernails similarly opens with a dubious blurb explaining how the condition of your fingernails can indicate the healthiness of your heart. In the world of Fingernails, this pseudo-science has fuelled the development of technology that claims to be able to determine with 100% accuracy whether two people are genuinely in love. We're told that the vast majority of couples test negative, but those lucky positive couples enjoy societal benefits like discounts at restaurants, along with the comfort of knowing they were meant to be together.

Fingernails review

One such couple is unemployed teacher Anna (Jessie Buckley) and her dull as ditchwater boyfriend Ryan (Jeremy Allen White). When Anna gets a job at a "love testing institute," she tells Ryan she's been hired by a local school, worried that the truth might force him to question the strength of their relationship regardless of what science has told them about its stability.

At the institute Anna is paired with a fellow instructor, Amir (Riz Ahmed). Anna is enthusiastic and keen to learn more about the workings of love, but Amir seems cynical about the process, yet performs his job unquestioningly. Apples saw its protagonist forced to perform a series of increasingly absurd tasks in the hopes it would cure his amnesia, and the variety of roleplaying games Anna and Amir's assigned couples are put through are similarly ludicrous. They range from having to maintain eye contact while underwater for a full minute to a fake fire being set in a cinema screening a Hugh Grant retrospective ("He understands love more than anyone," the marquee reads). The final test involves Anna and Amir tearing their clients' fingernails out and putting them through a machine for analysis.

Fingernails review

As Anna and Amir bond through their work, they begin to develop feelings. How can this be? Science has told Anna that she's in love with Ryan, but it's clear that their relationship is loveless. Anna and Amir are adorable together however.

The movie's message boils down to a scene in which one of Amir's clients expresses bafflement at why Charles Trenet's 'La Mer' is considered a romantic song when its lyrics seem so mundane. Amir can't give the man a straight answer. It's just a feeling, and the best feelings can't be explained by words or science.

Fingernails review

This is reflected in the outstanding performances of Buckley and Ahmed. Regardless of what the data tells them, it's clear that Anna and Amir are head over heels in love. We know this because the two actors playing them show us how they feel through how they look at one another, and how they seem to visibly lose a part of their soul in the other's absence. I'm struggling to think of the last movie I saw that portrayed love in such convincing fashion. Most romantic comedies rely on dialogue to communicate chemistry, but Nikou is clever enough to leave this idea to the faces of his two remarkable leads. Too many modern movies are so reliant on dialogue that you could watch them with the screen turned off and wouldn't miss a thing. Try that with Fingernails and you'll miss the entire point of the film. Everything we're shown here contradicts everything we're told.

The absurdist elements are never quite as amusing as the film believes, and a talented supporting cast that includes White, Luke Wilson and Annie Murphy is underserved. White's Ryan is a lazy caricature of an inattentive boyfriend, and the film makes it too easy for Anna to look elsewhere for romance. But Buckley and Ahmed are so magnetic that we forget about the film's flaws every time they're on screen, whether they're basking in each other's presence or withering in their absence.

Fingernails is on Apple TV+ from November 3rd.

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