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Director Christos Nikou, known for his debut film “Apples,” once again demonstrates his ability to infuse everyday human emotions into a fantastical setting in his second feature, “Fingernails.” This thought-provoking science-fiction romance challenges conventional notions of love, chemistry, and human connection, all within a meticulously constructed narrative.
The story revolves around a unique premise: a test result, generated by a mathematical algorithm, serves as an official declaration of love between couples. It’s a peculiar concept, yet one that raises pertinent questions about the validity of love and the human desire to quantify emotions. Nikou skillfully navigates this surreal world, blurring the line between reality and fantasy, all while maintaining a sincere emotional core.
Set in a seemingly timeless urban landscape, “Fingernails” creates a cozy yet otherworldly atmosphere. Cinematographer Marcell Rév captures the essence of a perpetual autumn, drenched in warm, comforting hues. This carefully chosen visual palette contributes to the film’s romantic sensibilities.
At the heart of “Fingernails” are the outstanding performances of Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed. Their portrayals of love-laboratory technicians, Anna and Amir, are nothing short of remarkable. Despite the film’s sci-fi elements, their characters exude genuine humanity and authenticity. Their growing attraction to each other defies the very science they work with, making their connection all the more compelling.
The film’s social commentary is evident in its portrayal of a world obsessed with coupledom. The Love Institute, where compatibility testing takes place, is a place where society’s fixation on romantic relationships is taken to the extreme. Restaurants offer discounts to certified lovers, schools rewrite myths to emphasize the importance of relationships, and movie theaters screen romantic films non-stop. It’s a world that feels both familiar and unsettling, highlighting the societal pressures placed on couples.
“Fingernails” doesn’t rely on elaborate futuristic settings or complex CGI. Instead, it focuses on the intricacies of human emotion and connection. The test involving the removal of a fingernail, a seemingly mundane yet chilling procedure, serves as a stark reminder of how detached and mechanized our understanding of love has become. In a world where love is reduced to algorithms, the film suggests that true connection can’t be quantified.
The chemistry between Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed is palpable and magnetic. Their unspoken desires and private epiphanies are beautifully captured by cinematographer Marcell Rév, who frames each character’s journey with intimate close-ups. These moments of silent revelation are as powerful as any dialogue-driven scene.
In a society where love is calculated and quantified, “Fingernails” advocates for the rebellion of human connection. It encourages viewers to embrace the unpredictable, the unquantifiable, and the exhilarating aspects of love. While the film doesn’t have a traditional villain, it subtly critiques the dehumanizing effects of a rigidly structured approach to relationships.
Ultimately, “Fingernails” is a quietly subversive and emotionally resonant sci-fi romance. It challenges viewers to question the systems and symbols we use to define love while celebrating the ineffable, unexplainable nature of human connection. With outstanding performances and a thoughtful narrative, “Fingernails” reminds us that love can’t be reduced to a mere test result.