On Screen: Fingernails

Fingernails

As a critic, I’ve seen wretched sci-fi romantic dramedies — but few as ludicrous and repugnant as Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou’s “Fingernails.”

The premise is simple: What if technology could determine whether you and your partner are perfectly matched and in love? Would it matter to you if that simple test involved ripping out one of your fingernails — without anesthesia?

Unemployed teacher Anna (Jesse Buckley) is in a long-term relationship with Ryan (Jeremy Allen White). While their nightly routine of cuddling on the couch and watching nature documentaries has grown a bit tedious, Anna still thinks they’re happy. After all, they tested ‘positive’ for compatibility three years ago.

Nevertheless when Anna tells Ryan she’s starting a new job, she indicates that it’s at a local elementary school when, actually, she’s started training at the Love Institute, the company that administers the love-certification tests. Why does she lie? Good question.

Anna’s idealistic boss Duncan (Luke Wilson) assigns her to work with instructor Amir (Riz Ahmed) who shows her the way to counsel couples, encourage their intimacy and, inevitably, how to remove one of their fingernails with pliers.

The bloody severed nails are then placed in a microwave-like computer that whirrs and beeps, determining whether the couple gets a 100% score (meaning they’re really in love), 50% (meaning that one of them is but the other isn’t) or 0%. When couples get a negative result, they inevitably split up — even if they’re married.

The emotional and physical attraction between Anna and Amir is immediately obvious, along with the tortuous dilemma they’ll eventually face.

Best known for “The Lost Daughter” and “Women Talking,” Jesse Buckley is a lovely actress, so it’s startling to see how writer/director Christos Nikou (“Apples”) — making his English-language debut — saddles her with a garish hairstyle/fright wig. Perhaps it’s because Nikou apprenticed with director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”), also known for his grotesquely bizarre visuals.

Too bad Jeremy Allen White’s (“The Bear”) and Riz Ahmed’s (“Sound of Metal”) roles are so superficial.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Fingernails” is a futile 4, streaming on Apple TV+.

 

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.

As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.

During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books. Her website is www.susangranger.com.

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