Do you have that friend who is doing great with his partner but one day he breaks down and tells you “I just don’t know if I’m feeling what I’m supposed to feel”? Or are you that friend? Ok, now imagine that with a simple test, like when you stuck the stick up your nose for Covid, you can know if you are really in love with your partner. Would you be comfortable? Could the test be positive, but you still have doubts? It may be negative, but you feel very clear? In ‘This is going to hurt (Fingernails)’, that happens, but it’s not about sticking a stick up your nose, but about ripping off a nail. “But then, the test is not that simple.” OK right. It’s just that love isn’t either.
Christos Nikou already used science fiction and dystopianism to talk about feelings and metaphysical reflections in his debut ‘Apples’ (in that case, about memory and identity), which was selected by Greece for the 2021 Oscars, and called the attention of Cate Blanchett. The protagonist of ‘Carol’ is, in fact, a producer on ‘Fingernails’, where we are told the story of Anna, who years ago took the test with her boyfriend Ryan, and now starts working at the Institute of Love There, together with his co-worker Amir, he will try to help several couples who want to undergo the procedure.
Nikou, then, once again uses the fantastic aspect as a McGuffin to talk about what he really wants: love. “I’m still trying to understand what love is and why it has changed in recent decades, especially the last one, through social media and dating apps,” he recently declared, explaining that the idea for the movie came to him after a girl spoke to him at a film festival about the relief it was for him to be able to ask his match a thousand things before devirtualizing him, and thus ensure that his date was free of red flags, saving himself unnecessary waste of time.
Does this seem wonderful to you… or rather depressing? Nikou is clear: “it’s crazy, you’re looking at an image on a screen, you don’t feel that person close to you (…) we only expose ourselves to relationships that way, and we want to know everything beforehand.”
The theme and Nikou’s nationality may make ‘Lobster’ come to mind, and in a way you are not wrong: he was Lanthimos’ assistant director on ‘Canino’. But ‘Fingernails’, without avoiding the bitter, has a much kinder tone or, as he himself defines it, “with a melancholic smile.” In fact, seen at the San Sebastián Festival (where it won the FIPRESCI Award), it reminded us of another one also seen there, ‘Fallen Leaves’ by Ari Kaurismäki. Humor is an important part of both, and the room laughed especially at the gag about French as a romantic language, the homophobic machine (not really, but you will understand it when you see it) or the Hugh Grant cycle (the whole film has, of course In fact, a ‘Notting Hill’ 90s romcom aroma that Nikou himself admitted to having looked for).
Curious to say the least that a movie that talks about how we scroll through profiles on Tinder/Grindr just as we scroll through a platform’s movie catalog (without actually watching any) has been released on AppleTV, but it is also positive that Apple hosts not only mammoth blockbusters (‘Napoleon’), but also “small” stories like this one.
The cast of ‘Fingernails’ is another reason why the film connects with the viewer… and, also, one of the reasons that will push many to see it. We have Jessie Buckley, Riz Ahmed (both Oscar nominees for ‘The Dark Daughter’ and ‘Sound of Metal’, respectively) and Jeremy Allen White (star of our recommended series ‘The Bear’, and lately protagonist of our pink chronicle) like the love triangle, and in the cast there are familiar faces like Annie Murphy (Emmy winner for her work in the fantastic ‘Schitt’s Creek’) or Luke Wilson (among other things, you may be familiar with him for being Laura Dern’s ex-husband in the highly underrated ‘Enlightened’).
And, as in any romantic movie, music occupies a special place, something that you can imagine since the movie begins with the protagonist screaming ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ in the car: there is karaoke with ‘La Mer’, and songs play from Yazoo or Frankie Valli. In short, and answering the question in the headline: yes, it is quite possible that ‘Fingernails’ is the romantic movie of 2023 that has just left us. I encourage you to waste your time watching it.