Would you be willing to take a controversial test to see if the person you love is your endgame? If so, would you be able to live with the test results if it says your person isn’t your soulmate? Or worse yet, it says that someone you’re unsure about is the perfect match? Would the person you have lukewarm feelings about being your future change what you thought you knew about love? These are questions plaguing Anna (Jessie Buckley) in the romantic sci-fi film Fingernails.
Anna and her partner, Ryan (Jeremy Allen White), took the test years ago and got perfect scores. They’ve settled into the quiet couple’s life with scientific certainty that they are meant to be together. So what if Anna hides parts of herself, including her doubts about the results, from her partner? Does it really matter that he seems to be a by-the-numbers guy who no longer really notices her if the test says they’re meant to be? Anna’s uncertainty leads her to work at a love testing institute behind Ryan’s back, where she meets Amir (Riz Ahmed). What begins as a new friendship with Amir soon adds to Anna’s mounting doubts about her convenient relationship.
Fingernails is a cute enough film. I’m not really into romance, but I will root for any movie that dances under an almost Twilight Zone or Black Mirror premise. Only where those shows would have swerved into darker territory and given me a body count, this film stayed in its quiet and contained lane. Don’t get me wrong. It’s really hard to watch the fingernails get pulled for this test and made the audience a little squeamish. However, Fingernails is more interested in the horrors of relationships. It is more invested in discovering if people should follow their hearts or their heads.
Because we live in a society that acts like being single is the worst thing that can happen to a person, this makes the movie a bit more interesting than it seems at a glance. I am famous for being the one friends call when they need someone to tell them to leave their partner if they no longer make them happy. So for that reason, I had mixed feelings about watching Anna take almost two hours to reach this conclusion when I could’ve told her the obvious thing to do in a quick text. Although I’m not the audience for romance movies, I found this one less cloying than most.
I Came For The Actors, I Stayed For The Actors
I knew nothing about this movie other than it was a sci-fi movie playing at the London Film Festival while I was there. I was there to watch everything under the genre umbrella, so I went in with a subgenre and the top three billed actors. As usual, Riz Ahmed, Jessie Buckley, and Jeremy Allen White deliver what we have come to expect from them. They each manage to fold into this subdued and quiet world almost seamlessly. They keep us leaning forward even when we’re unsure if we are having a good time or not. I also enjoyed random appearances from Luke Wilson and Annie Murphy.
However, Riz Ahmed’s performance stole this movie for me. Not only do we watch his character fall for Anna as they put actual couples through these tests, but his loneliness is palpable. It is almost a scream in this world where everyone hides behind silence and science. It’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off him even during mundane (on the surface) conversations. Amir is also the complete opposite of Ryan, who is too safe and cares more about what other people think of him than his relationship with Anna.
Does It Pass The Test?
Again, I think this is a cute movie with an intriguing premise. I feel like if it were shorter, I would have a more enthusiastic response. I find it hard to sit still for nearly two hours when we know how the movie will end within the first 15 minutes. Especially if we’re not going to make the journey exciting. I feel like the movies that Fingernails reminds me of (The Lobster and With Love and a Major Organ) were able to avoid that pitfall by steering away from the obvious routes. Those movies also blew their quiet worlds up in interesting ways that fully explored their part of the romantic sci-fi subgenre. Fingernails never does that. It feels like we’re still waiting for it to reach its full potential when the credits begin to roll. Or for the other thing to drop and give it a bit of texture.
If you are in the mood for something cute that does not require too much from you, or you want to fall in love with Riz Ahmed, then it’s worth a watch. Fingernails is in select theaters and is also available on Apple TV+.