Metacritic (9/10), Letterboxd (4.5/5), Imdb.com (9/10), TMDB.com (4.5/5)
How do we know when we’re in love? And, even if we suspect we are, how do we know if we’re with the right person? In an age where individuals are increasingly out of touch with their own feelings – especially the one they seem to crave the most – these are pressing questions that desperately beg answers. So what should we do? Maybe technology is the answer. But how reliable is it? Can we trust it to give us definitive, accurate, meaningful results? Those are the issues that writer-director Christos Nikou addresses in his second feature outing, an excellent follow-up to his superb debut, “Apples” (2020), hitting his second cinematic home run in a row. In this insightful romantic comedy/drama, the filmmaker takes viewers on a heartfelt yet delightfully quirky absurdist odyssey in a society where amorously lost souls seek verification of the validity of their partnerships through a medical test that calls for the removal of one of each of the partners’ fingernails as a means of scientifically determining compatibility (talk about an act of commitment). And, to strengthen those relationships, the organization sponsoring these tests augments the results with a series of carefully structured (though frequently hilarious, somewhat clichéd and often seemingly preposterous) lessons designed to promote enhanced intimacy. But are these exercises proof positive of a successful match? That’s a question raised by one of the organization’s new instructors (Jessie Buckley), who has nagging doubts about the long-term viability of her relationship with her supposedly verified true love (Jeremy Allen White). The ante is further upped when she meets a fellow instructor (Riz Ahmed) with whom an unspoken but decidedly sensuous mutual attraction develops. In light of that then, can old-fashioned gut feelings legitimately trump allegedly solid science, particularly at a time when technology is being trumpeted as a panacea for all our problems, including those of an emotional nature? “Fingernails” does an exceedingly thoughtful job of examining these matters while incorporating both sublime yet sidesplitting humor and offbeat theoretical concepts that give us much to think about, qualities that helped to establish and distinguish Nikou as a director in his first film. In this offering, however, he builds upon that stylistic foundation by adding themes aimed at promoting truly genuine feelings aimed at plucking the heartstrings without becoming manipulative or sappy, creating a layered, thought-provoking, richly rewarding viewing experience. This is all brought to life by the fine performances of the three protagonists and an excellent supporting cast, backed by skillfully crafted humor parodying a number of other films and a nuanced soundtrack consisting of deftly chosen selections that definitively set the mood for countless scenes. Admittedly, the generally solid pacing could have used some tweaking in a few sequences, and the ending could have been a little more developed, but these modest shortcomings detract little from the overall quality of this fine production. If you doubt that, see this one for yourself and let your own mind – and not some technical contraption or overly intellectualized abstraction – decide for you.