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Review: Fingernails is This Generation’s Eternal Sunshine

Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed in “Fingernails,” premiering globally on November 3, 2023 on Apple TV+. Courtesy of Apple

There are few films better at capturing the indie zeitgeist than Fingernails. The new feature from director Christos Nikou stars Jessie Buckley, Jeremy Allen White and Riz Ahmed in a light near-sci-fi romance. To their credit, this talented trifecta is almost too good at conveying inner turmoil, making Fingernails a bittersweet comic tale about the ephemeral nature of true love.

Buckley plays Anna, a teacher living with long-term boyfriend, Ryan (Allen White) in a faceless American city. On a whim, Anna secures a job working at a company called the Love Institute for a self-proclaimed love doctor (Luke Wilson). In Anna’s world, it’s perfectly normal for couples to take a number of tests at the Love Institute to prove that their love is “genuine” before committing to a long-term relationship, with the final test involving ripped-out fingernails. Anna and Ryan passed the test years ago and as their uneventful yet satisfactory life ticks along Anna becomes increasingly invested in the affairs of new couples taking the Institute’s love course. Then, as Anna gets to know secretive colleague Amir (Ahmed) she starts to wonder if she and Ryan are really in love after all?

Although Fingernails asks serious questions about our preoccupation with the perfect relationship, it leaves plenty of room to poke fun at the self-help industry. The Love Institute’s many ridiculous scenarios to test couple bonding include skydiving and a game where blindfolded people in their underwear must sniff out their partners.  And yet there is a sombre note to proceedings, the yearnings of Anna and Amir so well realised by Buckley and Ahmed. White continues to be very watchable, even when his character’s primary role is simply to be content.

The production design used in Fingernails is also notable; its hipster aesthetic screaming millennial anxiety and dissatisfaction. The only problem with Nikou using three so well-loved leads is that it becomes hard to decide who to root for at the film’s conclusion. Those searching for the secret to true love won’t find it here.

Fingernails most calls to mind 00’s indie melodramas like The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This film poignantly asks the big questions with a wry smile. The only question left to answer is why aren’t there more quirky indies like this?

Fingernails will premiere in select cinemas and stream globally on Apple TV+ from 3 November, 2023.

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