Fingernails premieres globally on Apple TV+ and in select cinemas on Friday, November 3, 2023.
Many dating sites will have you believe you can find love through an algorithm by swiping through endless photos picked by a computer based on your perceived likes. However, the more connected the world becomes, the more detached we seem to be from each other. If we are not settled down with a partner by thirty, we are encouraged to think there must be something wrong with us as friends post pictures on social media of their “perfect” relationships, which are often anything but. Director Christos Nikou’s delightfully dark comedy Fingernails introduces us to a world dictated by science, where love is a percentage score, and partnerships are governed by a computer that says yes or no. But this is no dystopian future; it’s an alternate reality before smartphones and online dating. In Nikou’s alternate world, love is certified by a mysterious oven and antiquated monitor where one fingernail of each partner is baked in unison to provide a percentage score of their love for one another.
Anna (Jesse Buckley) lives with her long-term partner Ryan (Jeremy Allen White), a man she passed the baked fingernail test with years before. Yet, despite Ryan’s love, Anna no longer feels like she once did. While Ryan is happy with their daily routines, something niggles at Anna that she can’t quite put her finger on. Looking for a new teaching job, Anna accepts a position at the Love Institute, a “scientific” body that coaches couples on all things love before they take the baked fingernail test. As a new employee, Anna is assigned to Amir (Riz Ahmed), and it’s not long before an unspoken bond of attraction grows between them, only further confusing Anna and challenging her belief in the fingernail test as a defining score of compatibility. But as her feelings for Amir grow stronger and Ryan becomes more distant, Anna will seek the machine’s logic for answers, ultimately learning that love and attraction may sit outside a computer-generated score.
Nikou’s movie is purposefully placed in a world before the growth of online dating, with the fingernail test a metaphor for our modern obsession with algorithms, perfection and online swipes. Here, Nikou and fellow writers Stavros Raptis and Sam Steiner ask a pertinent question: what is love, and how does it morph and change over time? Is it fixed, like many would like you to believe, or is it ever-changing and ultimately imperfect?
Over the years, films have sold us an image of the perfect love that overcomes all barriers. Nikou joyously dissects this through more than a few beautifully timed gags that poke fun at movies ranging from Notting Hill to Ghost and Titanic. The music surrounding the narrative is equally impressive, with each track carefully selected for its commentary, from “The Night” by Franki Valli & The Four Seasons to “Only You” by Yazoo and “La Mer” by Charles Trenent, each reflecting the conflicted reality of love, from the absurdity of romance to the reality of unfulfilled desire. Buckley and Ahmed are sublime together as they place their beliefs and hopes for love in a machine before realising life is far more complicated than a baked fingernail in a movie that subverts and questions the standard rom-com through a Black Mirror-esque world.
Fingernails asks us all to explore the true nature of love and attraction and reject the algorithms that are slowly consuming us; it asks whether the social drive for perfect love suppresses the very things that make love work in the first place: time, commitment, and an acceptance that nothing is perfect. Like a garden, love is rarely instantaneous; it needs to be nurtured before it comes into bloom, and sometimes, it can burn bright with vibrant colour before fading away forever. Love isn’t a fixed feeling; it changes over time, and Fingernails asks if we would all be happier if we put down our smartphones, stopped looking for perfection, and, god forbid, talked to each other again.
Fingernails asks us all to explore the true nature of love and attraction and reject the algorithms that are slowly consuming us; it asks whether the social drive for perfect love suppresses the very things that make love work in the first place: time, commitment, and an acceptance that nothing is perfect.