Fingernails Review

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Apples, a beautifully pensive Nikou’s debut feature film, came out at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. It was one of those films that were made before the pandemic and released during its peak. Apples is a movie about a world that is post-pandemic and where loners are taken into an institution to help them develop new identities; this film has received some praise but has not been given enough attention it deserves because during the time of its release, no cinema was open and people did not want to see a fiction story related to what they were living through every day. Still undeterred by all these circumstances, for his second film, Fingernails, Nikou returns with similar aesthetics as well as tone and setting.

Simply put – what if there was scientific proof that your partner loves you and vice versa? In practice, however, it’s far less simple than that. This relationship test in a hypothetical near-future consists of removing one fingernail from each partner and placing them together in a machine that can determine whether or not they feel the same way – 0% means no love at all exists between them; 100% means both partners are absolutely in love; and after being shown only half-heartedly how to have relationships with others he needs to be told again about other girls a single male betrays forty-nine percent would mean one person is head over heels while the other does not reciprocate.

Her score turns out to be 100% which is also her partner’s score – Ryan (Jeremy Allen White), but their monotonous days push Anna towards doubting scientifically tested feelings she once swore by. Discontented she gets employed at the institute for testing such things hoping she will understand better how everything functions. The office walls have posters showing how almost nobody divorces anymore since science brings certainty plus other signs while the woman does not feel sure of anything. It is only more perplexing when she meets her partner and boss in her professional life, Amir (Riz Ahmed).

They immediately like each other. They both discover the series of pre-mutilation compatibility tests, which take a great deal of empathy for others as well as an ability to really talk to one another that normally comes with time spent together. Together they are a smooth gliding rocking horse who laugh at little quips that turn into private jokes in no time and fill their hours discussing not just what happens to the subjects but themselves too. Over days Anna starts loving her afternoons with Amir at work more than Ryan’s evenings at home – worsening instead of closing up that gap in their relationship which had resulted in a change of job on her part.

Fingernails is one of those films that tap into the striking stylistic traits of what has come to be known as the Greek Weird Wave, with 2009’s Dogtooth being its major catalyst and Nikou’s first time as a credited filmmaker. The film consequently maintains a stoic, sometimes spooky, remoteness in order to underscore its biggest success – discovering that love is different from passion. In this way, science has ensured that love should remain permanent: there can hardly be any room for passion—what would otherwise amount to wasting time nourishing one’s excitement in the hope of turning it into love when emotional compatibility tests now take less time than preparing instant noodles. Yes, such an equation does away with numerous arguments and breakups; but it also robs us of the greatest happinesses in life including those early days’ chapters when meeting someone special feels like invincibility.

In Fingernails, passion comes through restrained instances of joy which Buckley and Ahmed perform extremely well. It may be the electric shock at an unexpected touch, shy smiles, or just one long look yearning for something more. Also, youth gives freedom to passion till that precious pre-realism period of early adulthood where dreams don’t exist yet. Anna chooses two youngsters namely Sally (Amanda Arcuri) and Rob (Christian Meer), while falling for Amir; she sees a couple in love but living in a new society where passion has been suppressed beneath knowledge proven by concrete facts. A scene where blindfolded Rob finds his beloved Sally only by using his sense of smell is like ballet for Anna. This artistic style becomes a metaphor representing Fingernails’ core dichotomy between precision and affectionateness since neither term can exist without the other.

Nikou effectively captures the serenading nearly magical quality that characterizes those early days of falling in love while never forgetting how scary Fingernails’ subject matter really is. The music score almost disappears during the most brutal part of a test with hard proteins being forced out of the skin, making it sound like one rips meat off a bone. Such a skin-tingling physical pain would terrify someone whose life is not familiar with hardships but fails to frighten those in excruciating emotional distress—the body-horror ritual means nothing to them but an uncomfortable step leading to a much larger return. The idea that the agonizing anxiety associated with this test is related to pluckable and somewhat disposable body parts can be cathartic.

Zazu Myers, the production designer, and Mathew Birtch, the art director, have combined their efforts to create a world that contrasts with dystopian futuristic ideas. That is why these houses are completely covered in bright patterned wallpapers; everything inside them is made out of wood; happy couples’ photos are taken on film cameras; and even the love testing machine itself represents an amazing retro 70’s gadget complete with vintage TV set. By playing with time or suspending it altogether, Nikou only adds to the sense that his reality lies far closer to us than tomorrow does. It is not as much cautionary as it is nostalgia for passion-filled love—careful compliance of Fingernails.


There is a new Greek-born director in town, Christos Nikou who has directed his first English-language film. This is an elaborate sci-fi piece whose main idea is to establish the dissimilarity between passion and love by depicting life in the near future as couples are able to subject themselves to scientific examination. While society has accepted the test as an end to divorce and heartbreak as we know it, schoolteacher Anna is not quite sure. Can science be the final answer when it comes to love?

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