Fingernails review – Lightly effective despite a flawed premise

This is a film which plays into our societal fixation with and trust of technology as an apparatus that could be more trustworthy than the signals generated by our own body. We’re dropped into a near future where nothing much has changed: people dress dowdily; they listen to the same old songs; and takeaway soup from an all-night deli still tastes reassuringly awful. Also, love is now an algorithm.

There’s a new-fangled test which has been developed to state with biological certainty whether a couple are romantically compatible for the long term, or whether current feelings of amour will fizzle away when things get complicated. The way the test is administered is that, after a series of wacky tests, the couple are subject to the forced removal of a fingernail (usually the pinkie) which is then placed into a retro microwave and, after a puff of smoke emerges, a percentage appears on a screen. And that’s it. If it’s positive you recieve a certificate of love. If it’s negative (as the vast majority of outcomes are), then it’s on your way…

Christos Nikou’s second fiction feature after 2020’s well-liked Apples sees the writer-director injecting a little bit of Greek “weird wave” conceptual deadpan into a softly-spoken sci-fi-tinged tale that plays like one of the better episodes of Netflix’ worryingly popular Black Mirror series (faint praise, I realise). It’s a largely office-bound drama with splashes of romance and humour, and is helped no-end by the chemistry of its two leads, Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed.

The psychological basis of the film requires something of a logic leap to get on board with, as it does seem difficult to accept that the infinitely-sprawling concept of “love” has been scientifically mastered and now operates in pretty much the same way as a Covid lateral flow test. Beyond that, it seems strange and not a little cynical that there would exist people who take it so seriously. Yet the film is perhaps more interested in emphasising the insecurity that the existence of such a test would cause in couples that just had to know if they were wasting their time on a romantic dalliance. It’s maybe a film more about our fear of death than our love of love.

The strictures that Nikkou sets for himself means that he doesn’t stray too far off the reservation when exploring or depicting the everyday process of being “in love”, as seen between Buckley’s Anna and her 100 per cent lock life partner Ryan, played by Jeremy Allen White. The science is tested when Anna, who works at the love institute which is overseen by Luke Wilson’s new age-y Duncan develops a crush with wisecracking co-worker Amir (Ahmed).

Even though it’s a story that severely lacks for surprise, in both the silly nature of the tests and the question of Anna and Amir’s latent bond, the actors take the material seriously enough for the film to remain engaging enough. The actual concept is actually less interesting than the implicit subtexts about human neediness and our perpetual need for a God-like figure to reveal the answers to all the impossible questions in life. Our readiness to accept those answers when a false prophet comes along leaves Fingernails a effectively chilling finish.

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Intrigued to see how director Christos Nikou has levelled-up after Apples.


A film that leans too heavily on its (admittedly great) actors.


A soulful riff on the cynical Black Mirror formula.


Directed by

Christos Nikou


Jessie Buckley,

Riz Ahmed,

Jeremy Allen White

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