1990’s pop warbling Trinidadian – German hybrid Eurodance wastrel, Haddaway in his 1993 hit asked ‘What is Love?’ adding ‘Oh baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me no more! Slim chance of that in director Christos Nikou’s sci-fi satire Fingernails which refers to the painful test couples subject themselves to in order to see if they are truly in love with each other. It’s a test that in the films near future many couples have subjected themselves to and in turn the divorce rate has soared. And so now couples, thinking of making a go of it, subject themselves to the test. The magic of love has been reduced to a science and if nothing else if it goes some way to putting divorce lawyers out of business then it can’t be all bad surely.
It’s Anna (Jessie Buckley), happily ensconced with her boyfriend Ryan (Jeremy Allen White) but harbours an interest in working for the Love Institute instead of finding work as a teacher – a lie that she tells Ryan already suggesting that maybe even though the pair underwent the test that showed they are 100% compatible, maybe she’s starting to have her doubts . The institute is headed up by Duncan (Luke Wilson) who hires her and teams her up with fellow coach Amir (Riz Ahmed) as they run a class for couples teaching them how to foster closer relationships with each other before they take that fingernails test. It’s little surprise that several understandably approach the test with extreme trepidation as it involves a nail being ripped from their finger of each partner and put in a device that looks like a microwave wired up to an old TV set from Rediffusion. It’s a wince inducing moment for audiences seeing this for the first time in a test that suggests that maybe the West misconstrued the techniques used in Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers.
Loving her work at the institute Anna embraces the role play and exercises given to the couples – one of which includes blindfolding one partner who has to locate the other partner through smell whereas another has an electric shock being administered every time the partner leaves the house to foster a sense of yearning – a technique our Editors wife has used but instead only when he returns home from work (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed). It’s only a matter of time before Anna will want to take the test again and it’s easy to see the direction the film is going in with her friendship with Amir growing.
As an on screen couple Ahmed and Buckley have a lot of chemistry and it is good to see Buckley in a role that’s far more nuanced then her usual but at the centre of this is never any real explanation as to why she doesn’t try to work on her own relationship with Ryan instead seemingly more intent on destroying it. The fingernail test itself is mercifully only seem in close up the once and is out of vision for further scenes but it is an uncomfortable experience for audiences and the characters in what seems an extreme way to find out about the compatibility of their relationship even if it does mean that the test reduces any future pedicure costs. What is initially a fascinating if wafer thin premise it certainly does not support an hour and fifty minutes before getting to an albeit anticlimactic but inevitable ending.
related feature: Riz Ahmed’s Oscar nominated role inSound of Metal – AMAZON PRIME
Here’s the Fingernails trailer…….