Starring: Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White, and Annie Murphy
Director: Christos Nikou
Not every story about love needs to be a love story, and that’s something Fingernails director Christos Nikou looks to explore. The notion of sacrificing one’s fingernail just to learn if one’s love is true is a great commentary on our need for reassurance and reliance on “the one.” Unfortunately, Nikou focuses on this with everyone except Anna (Jessie Buckley) and Ryan (Jeremy Allen White), the film’s lead relationship. The focus on these two is lacklustre, and you’re never really given a chance to invest in them, which dampens the introduction of Amir (Riz Ahmed), and in turn, his entire storyline.
Fingernails has a great premise, but the film never lives up to it. A good chunk of the movie is fleshing out the central idea regarding this test that can calculate love, and because it spends so much time on that, the broader implications of what writer/director Christos Nikou is trying to say about the human desire to feel loved falls through the cracks. Not that this is a bad movie, as Jessie Buckley is as excellent as always and the ideas presented are good ones, but I wish it offered something more.
While Fingernails plays with an intriguing idea about the complications of love and relationships, it does it in such an introverted manner that it makes it hard to fall in love with the story. While original, this thought-provoking, lo-fi, sci-fi film, doesn’t have enough spark to stand on its own. It’s too simplistic and calm, leaving its screenplay to be the film's real heartbreak. Without the strong performances of Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, and Jeremy Allen White, Fingernails would just feel like another generic rip-off of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster.
The thesis behind Fingernails seems to be that love is complicated, and, well… yeah. I feel like anyone over the age of 20 probably already knew that. We’re all aware that relationships take work, and that love isn’t easily quantifiable. These seem like very surface-level observations. It’s a shame the film is this shallow because, at least on a technical level, it’s pretty well executed. The performances are good, the cinematography is great, and the music is beautiful. You can tell a lot of hard work went into making Fingernails; I just wish it was in service of something a little more thought provoking.
This film was reviewed by Nick and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.