How do we know that we are in love? That’s the question at the heart of the melancholic romantic comedy Fingernails, in which a superb Jessie Buckley plays ex-teacher Anna, who has to decide whether loving someone is the same as being in love.
Some may argue that Anna is in a win-win situation because she has to choose between staying with her dependable long-term beau, Ryan, played by The Bear hunk Jeremy Allen White, or acting on a crush she has on new colleague Amir, essayed by the equally dashing Riz Ahmed. The decision is made all the more complex because Ryan and Amir have similar vibes, and she lives in a world where a microwave oven can reliably tell if you're in love with your partner by analysing your ripped-off fingernail. Ouch!
It's not just because of Anna’s dyed reddish hair that summon to mind Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry’s classic, which revolves around a machine that purports to make you forget about your ex. Fingernails is directed by Greek director Christos Nikou, whose brilliant debut, Apples, featured a character who probably wished he had Gondry’s machine as he tries to forget about a former love during a memory pandemic. In his beguiling follow-up Nikou takes his musings on love even further.
It’s a rebuke to anyone who thinks algorithms are the answer to human problems
The timeless quality of the compatibility question – one that has fired up philosophers, poets and dinner chatter since Adam and Eve – is demonstrated by Fingernails’ retro-futuristic world. The central concept here is very sci-fi, but nobody has a cell phone, and Amir drives around in a car that has a wind-up window. He and Anna both work in the Love Institute, run by Luke Wilson's nutty professor, which humorously tries to help couples pass the fingernail test by giving them exercises to love each other more, by having them take parachute jumps, watch Hugh Grant movies, or even sniff each other out in a room packed with semi-naked people.
Nikou’s film is brimming with humour and excellent ideas, but is mostly a rebuke to anyone who thinks algorithms and technology are the answer to human problems.
In US theaters now. In UK cinemas and on Apple TV+ Nov 3.