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By Andy Howell | September 21, 2023

In the movie, nobody is forced to get their relationship certified, yet many couples opt to, whether to flaunt their perfection to their friends or to get some peace of mind that they are romantically on the right track. And yet, odds of success are low — most find that they are a 0% match for each other, although some get a 50% match and even more rarely a 100% match. This immediately raises the question, why would anyone put themselves through this? Of course, it is really a commentary on our world where people “match” with algorithms on dating sites and get their relationships certified by the church. Why do we even have big ceremonies where we can prove to all our friends how much in love we are? This is where Fingernails completely resonates. I’ve never fully understood the degree to which weddings can drive some people to near insanity.

The success of this sci-fi tale mostly rests on Buckley and her chemistry with Ahmed. The duo plays it deadpan, which may be the only way to approach such a seemingly ridiculous setup. While they are both fine actors, they don’t catch fire as a couple. This is at least partly intentional — we’re somewhat left wondering if they are truly right for each other. Even still, a little more passion — even suppressed or constrained passion — would have helped move the movie along.

“…succeeds because it can get into our minds through the back door.”

In this world, there is no digital technology — no cell phones, no huge TVs. The machine at the story’s core looks like a 1980s-style monitor, fonts and all — the stripping away of technology comments on our reliance on it. Like most science fiction, it succeeds because it can get into our minds through the back door.

Kudos to Nikou for landing an impactful and fascinating flick. Fingernails doesn’t wrap its answers up in a bow. Relationships are messy, and that’s ultimately part of the message. By allowing them to just exist without obvious heroes or villains, he makes a statement. Or, more precisely, it allows the audience to look inward and reflect. Are we evaluating our relationship enough once it is “certified?” Do we do it too much? Are we as happy as we could be? The only people who can answer that are those in the relationship. But they have to do it together. These are universal themes, and they’re made all the more approachable with an offbeat narrative.  

Fingernails screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.

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

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

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