The new film from Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou, known for his acclaimed debut Apples, combines a contrived sci-fi plot with a tender love story. However, the sci-fi aspect of Fingernails gives the film a comedic feel that is often interrupted by the serious emotional longing of the characters, constantly being undermined by the strange narrative setting.
In this story, we are transported to a time period that could be the future, a different version of the present, or even a recent past based on the outdated technology such as film cameras and landline phones. Jessie Buckley portrays Hannah, a teacher who is in a steady but uneventful partnership with Ryan (played by Jeremy Allen White). Their relationship has been validated by the Love Institute, led by disheveled and preoccupied scientist Duncan (played by Luke Wilson), which utilizes advanced technology to analyze biological samples and determine the authenticity of a couple’s love.
However, these examples symbolize fingernails. Both individuals must endure the painful procedure of having a fingernail removed and placed in a nonsensical microwave contraption. This could represent the anguish of contemplating love, or it could be a reference to the connection between fingernail abnormalities and heart disease, a somber reality referenced in the film’s opening credits. Alternatively, it may simply add to the overall bizarre atmosphere.
Hannah is hired at the institute without informing Ryan. She becomes romantically drawn to Amir, a sensitive new scientist at the institute who has unique ideas about improving love relationships. He conducts experiments on audiences while they watch the famous “I’m just a girl” scene from Notting Hill. Hannah begins to question if she should test her feelings for Amir and his apparent feelings for her using the institute’s techniques, which are believed to be infallible by the audience. The strong acting skills of the cast maintain the stability of this somewhat shaky plot.