Fingernails BFI London Film Festival Review – An Efficient Satire on Human Behaviors

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I absolutely love high-concept sci-fi films. There’s simply something truly fascinating about watching the future of humanity be completely altered by, in this case, one particular invention, especially if it’s as bizarre as in Fingernails. Christos Nikou (Apples) places his characters in a world where love can be calculated through a controversial machine, both for its method of analysis and its overall meaning. With the help of co-screenwriters Sam Steiner and Stavros Raptis, the Greek filmmaker offers an intriguing movie, despite some narrative issues.

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Also Read: Poor Things Venice Film Festival Review

Fingernails Critique

The development of the central concept is, of course, one of the most captivating elements of Fingernails. The satire surrounding irrevocably affected human behaviors not only offers countless moments of humor but also proves to be tremendously efficient in conveying the message that, more and more, the population allows itself to be carried away by new technology, even if the reasons for their existence are absurdly idiotic. From purposefully ridiculous exercises on “how to improve the love connection” in a couple to the painful physical sacrifice to obtain the result of the popular test, all these sequences are cleverly executed and interpreted.

Fingernails (2023)
Fingernails (2023)

Fingernails becomes predictable early on, dragging a bit until it reaches the anticipated events of the third act, but it strangely never stops being interesting to watch the unravelling of the multiple subplots that mark the film. The protagonists, Anna (Jessie Buckley) and Amir (Riz Ahmed), work at the Love Institute, helping couples with a plan to prepare for the eventual test and strengthening their relationship through silly yet amusing exercises. From karaoke in French to finding your partner exclusively through smell, it’s unlikely anyone will finish the movie without a single laugh.

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The love-related themes are quite generic. Everyone is aware that “love hurts” and that “it’s complicated”, but Fingernails manages to somehow prove these cliche phrases, despite not actually presenting any example or analogy never seen before. Buckley (Women Talking) and Ahmed (Sound of Metal) bring an essential human layer to a story that would easily get lost in the less absorbing topic of technology – especially nowadays where it seems like all screenplays are forced to insert AI into the picture.

Unfortunately, the thematic messages transmitted suffer from some frustrating inconsistencies. On one hand, Fingernails makes it clear that the love-certified machine and exercises are, in its simplest definition, pure nonsense. Love cannot be measured with numbers, and the fact that a relationship enters a certain routine doesn’t mean that the passion has disappeared. On the other hand, the third act revolves around actions guided entirely by the validation of technology, with characters making incomprehensible, even contradictory decisions, having in mind what they believed in throughout the film.

The ending doesn’t work at all. It completely ruins Buckley’s character, trying to force the audience to feel sorry for someone who commits shameful, extremely hypocritical acts. Fingernails both defends love as something immeasurable while creating non-satirical sequences dedicated to upholding what the machine means. The cast does an excellent job with the script presented to them – Buckley and Ahmed share good chemistry – but the last few minutes lack narrative cohesion in order for Nikou to deliver one of the potentially biggest surprises of the year. As it is, one can describe it as competent yet unmemorable entertainment – ignoring a certain visual detail that will make the more sensitive viewers look away from the screen on occasion.

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In Conclusion

Fingernails is undoubtedly the ideal title for this high-concept sci-fi flick. Despite falling short of its narrative and thematic potential, Christos Nikou still presents an efficient, thought-provoking satire about human behaviors influenced by love and technology. Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed competently lead a predictable yet continually engaging, funny, humanistic story. Conflicting messages and a forced, hypocritical ending don’t do justice to the rest of the movie, which deserved a better conclusion to its study of the complexities and power of love.

6/10

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Written by Manuel São Bento

Articles Published: 49

Portuguese critic with a tremendous passion for cinema, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who has stopped watching trailers since 2017.

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