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By Andy Howell | September 21, 2023

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Director Christos Nikou’s Fingernails is set in an alternate reality where, at the mere cost of having one of your fingernails ripped out, a machine can tell you whether you as a couple are right for each other. This is facilitated by the Love Institute, where they also do a bizarre form of couples counseling, including having people stare at each other underwater.

“…things may not be as perfect as they seem when Anna secretly gets a job at the Love Institute…”

Written by Nikou, Stavros Raptis, and Sam Steiner, the movie follows Anna (Jessie Buckley), an elementary school teacher in a relationship with Ryan (Jeremy Allen White). The two have been through the test and have the certificate to show they are a match. But things may not be as perfect as they seem when Anna secretly gets a job at the Love Institute without telling her partner. There, she trains under Duncan (Luke Wilson), who pairs her with Amir (Riz Ahmed). As Anna gets closer and closer to Amir, she starts to wonder if Ryan really is her one true love, no matter what the machine says.

If you’ve seen the absurdist pictures of Yorgos Lanthimos, like The Lobster, you have some kind of idea what you’re in for with Fingernails. In fact, Nikou was an assistant director on Dogtooth. He derives plenty of humor from its absurd premise and situations, but it is more focused and less zany than the titles of LanthimosYes, the setup is wacky, but it is real to the characters and treats them seriously. There’s a fine line between setting up your absurdist reality for laughs and having it be taken seriously enough to have an impact. The filmmaker threads that needle perfectly.

Fingernails (2023)

Directed: Christos Nikou

Written: Christos Nikou, Stavros Raptis, Sam Steiner

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed, Jeremy Allen White, Luke Wilson, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Fingernails Image

"…derives plenty of humor from its absurd premise and situations..."

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