Anna and Ryan have found true love, and it’s proven by a controversial new technology. There’s just one problem, as Anna still isn’t sure. Then she takes a position at a love testing institute and meets Amir.

Chuck says:

Christos Nikou’s low-key “Fingernails,” delves into matters of the heart through the lens of science, or at least the science of the nebulous future where it takes place. In a world in which uncertainty is prevalent, a test has been created that determines whether you are with your one true love. Yes, it would be easier not to have to worry if you’ve made the wrong decision where a life partner is concerned, but is the security of knowing worth sacrificing the mystery of love?

This isn’t something Anna (Jessies Buckley) wants to deal with. So, she and her partner Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) have gone to the Love Training Institute and taken the compatibility test. The cost? A small fee and a fingernail apiece, taken out with a set of surgical pliers, each analyzed in an analog whatsis and, voila, you know whether you are in love with each other, whether only one of you is in this state of bliss or if neither of you are with who you should be.

The most interesting aspect of the story, which should have been explored further, is the social impact of such a test. Some couples prefer to take it, needing the assurance of science, while others refuse, willing to take a chance on love, living with uncertainty. A division between the groups is implied, though it’s never made clear which one is in the minority or which is seen as the norm. A more thematically layered film would have resulted had this been developed.

Instead, doubt, denial, and a bit of paranoia are the focus as Anna takes a job at the Love Training Institute, curious as to how the test is administered and who else volunteers for it. There she meets Amir (Riz Ahmed), a co-worker assigned to mentor her. Kind, soft-spoken and smart, he’s the kind of co-worker you could easily fall in love with…that is, unless you’ve already taken a test that says you’re with your soul mate…

It comes as no surprise that Anna begins to question the results, she’s put so much stock into. She adheres to them so faithfully she becomes blind to the facts staring her in the face. She lies to Ryan on more than one occasion, while her mind turns more often to Amir than it should. The phrase “work husband” only scratches the surface of how she regards him.

There is a surprise or two in store during the film’s third act, though the conclusion is hardly shocking. However, there is a sense of the vicarious to be had. Who among us hasn’t tortured ourselves in the way Anna does here? Her needing assurance regarding her decisions is common and her clinging to the test results is understandable.

Ultimately, the futility of determining matters of the heart is at the core of the story. Love defies logic, resists reason and revels in unpredictability. To be sure, having some reassurances would be comforting, but to avoid its highs and lows, that simply isn’t living. We require a bit of uncertainty, a bit of risk-taking. As a species, we abhor monotony, we seek challenges of a physical, mental, and emotional nature. Boredom leads to ennui, our spirits withering as a result.

This is the lesson Anna is forced to confront and Buckley does a wonderful job conveying her fear and uncertainty. Ultimately, she must decide whether to settle on a seemingly sure thing or take a chance. Whether she realizes that love is more meaningful if it’s allowed to blossom naturally is the question.

3 Stars

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