LUMI Reviews: BFF Fingernails

16 November 2023

Conor McCusker reviews Fingernails for our first review from the Belfast Film Festival at QFT.

LUMI Reviews BFF Fingernails

Fingernails is a comedically brilliant and quietly devastating take on modern love plagued by technology and the age of social media. Nikou when introducing the film said quite poignantly “we used to view love through our eyes, now we view it through screens.” This quote is an undercurrent that runs through the plot of this film and its analogous interpretation of modern love via ‘machines’.

In Fingernails love can now be measured biologically through a test involving a quick and painful procedure of removing a whole fingernail from each person in a couple and putting them into a machine. The machine calculates love for one another on a percentage scale (100% = in love, 50% only one partner in the couple loves the other but there is no way to know who, 0% not in love). A world changing scientific outbreak that is to some couples a necessity to ratify their love and to others a pseudo-science with no basis in reality. Anna (Jessie Buckley) and Ryan (Jeremy Allen-White) are in love and so their positive test confirms, until Anna meets Amir (Riz Ahmed) a new co-worker at the Love Institute. Anna is then confronted with the morality of following her heart and human instincts or listening to the science that has confirmed her love to her long-term boyfriend.

Fingernails excels through its performances; in my opinion it is the major draw and backbone of this film amid its messy sci-fi elements. Riz Ahmed and Jessie Buckley’s chemistry is undeniable and is used to perpetuate the trope that modern relationships that appear picture perfect online (i.e. Anna and Ryan), are not always as they seem. The onscreen attraction of these two characters (despite their apparent incompatibility) is nuanced throughout their performance, with each glance and awkward touch selling this relationship, in lieu of Anna and Ryan’s comfortable, routine and un-exciting partnership. It is heart-breaking to see the tearing down of one connection due to the shiny glimmer of hope in another.

It seems that the film tries to get across that the machine isn’t a real indicator of love and only provides positive tests to some and primarily those in listless and boring relationships who take the test more than once and may be looking for a reason to break up. Is Nikou trying to get the message across that we must defy and break off all relationships formed via the ‘machine’ or is he saying to take a chance on human communication?