Weak writing lets down this film’s sleek aesthetics and phenomenal actors
In a world where dating apps get more frustrating day by day and the definition of a relationship is ever-evolving, some people might be inclined to use a machine that determines whether you’re really in love or not. After all, it offers certainty in an uncertain domain. Apple TV+’s Fingernails could have been a really insightful look into these themes but the movie only skims it.
Fingernails follows the life of Anna, who took the test with her boyfriend Ryan and has a positive result. But it’s been three years and Anna doesn’t seem sure about the relationship. She takes up a job at the Love Institute, where couples undergo exercises to strengthen their relationship before taking the test.
But she lies to Ryan about it and tries subtly using the exercises from the institute in their relationship. At the same time, she becomes closer to her colleague, Amir.
Overall, the movie follows the slow, fizzling out of one relationship and the slow ignition of another. Slow being the keyword here since at 113 minutes, it really does take its time. But this isn’t the real flaw of the film. With a muted colour palette and smooth cinematography that draws you in, this has all the right signs of an art film. But the story is its downfall.
The problem is that the story never goes beyond the surface level. We don’t really explore the key concept at all, which is the need for certainty in love. The communication gap that leads us to rely on machines, the ache to know your partner’s thoughts, the evolving nature of love — the story could have dived into any of these lines of thought but it didn’t. Instead, we see Anna’s feelings change and we see her worry about the test results, but we don’t really see her question why.
The fact that fingernails need to be pulled out to do the test is also a part of the movie that went unexplored. People subjecting themselves to this small but bloody act just to get a confirmation of what’s inside them all along is pretty powerful. But the story stops here. It doesn’t engage with the concept.
Why are people so willing to have their nails pulled out? When did uncertainty become this crippling? Why are those who don’t take the test considered odd? The film doesn’t go in this direction at all.
The relationship exercises are also a bit simplistic. One involves giving yourself an electric jab when your partner leaves, so you link their absence with pain. Another has the partners stare at each other underwater so they associate each other’s faces with the feeling of breathlessness. It’s classic conditioning and nothing more. And if this is a further statement on the nature of love, this is not evident.
Ultimately we watch things play out with minimal dialogue between characters that can’t do the big themes any justice. Of course, even where dialogues aren’t present, Jesse Buckley and Riz Ahmed do a phenomenal job as Anna and Amir. They infuse every silence with a meaningful glance or gesture.
Both have absolutely mastered the art of wistful gazes. But they, and Jeremy Allen White who plays Ryan, are all supremely talented actors who simply don’t have material to work with. In the end, no matter how quirky Buckley’s smile or Amir’s dancing is, the script lets the actors down as well.
The visual and aural elements of Fingernails are executed so well, all of them screaming that this movie has a meaningful message. But it never really comes. And these other, beautiful, elements of the film are left feeling a bit hollow as well. Nothing more than an aesthetic.
Read More: Fingernails Ending Explained
Verdict - 5/10