The question at the center of Fingernails is whether it is possible to ever completely know one’s heart. Throughout history, many have tried to define love, either as a series of chemical reactions, the gift of the divine, or just as a social or psychological need. We all like to think that we have it figured out, and to each their own, maybe many have. But is knowledge good enough for human beings?
Fingernails is the story of a woman named Anne, who has been told by a machine that she and her partner are definitely in love with each other. There is no room for doubt or speculation anymore, which means that the couple is free to take the next steps in life with each other. But Anna has her doubts. The machine has not been able to contain her heart, and Anna feels that she does not even understand it herself. It has become the driving question of her life, and she is desperately seeking answers. This movie is her story as she tries to understand why she is feeling this way and if there is another possibility out there for her.
The best thing about the story is how it raises the question of what it means to have the right answer. That is what makes Fingernails the new-age and a much better version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. We live in a world that is obsessed with finding ‘the one.’ That may be for a variety of reasons, and often, it all gets mixed up with ideas about destiny, which once again makes us wonder whether we missed out on someone. Concepts of ‘the one that got away’ or ‘what could have been’ that plague us during moments of loneliness are all answered once you know definitively that you are with your person. That is the idea behind the test in the film, and this entire review may just be a commentary on how well the philosophy of the film was presented. In the interest of balance, let us look at some of the other factors before we get consumed by questions of ‘to be or not to be in love’ presented in the film.
First of all, we have to acknowledge that it was the micro-expressions of the actors that pushed the narrative. While the story was centered around Anna and Amir, played so beautifully by Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed, it is Ryan, played by Jeremy Allen White, who takes the cake. The chef knew how to convey his understanding of the situation simply with a turn of his head or a different tone of voice, and we would consider his job to be the hardest of them all. He was supposed to be the clueless one, and in terms of dialogue, it was only in one scene that we came to know that he understood what was going on. But in every scene that he was in, there was a calculated energy that the actor used, which made us understand that the character knew and felt a lot more than he was letting on, and that ended up elevating the entire movie.
Secondly, we must address the pacing of the movie. You would need a tad bit of patience with it, but only because this movie demands that you give it all of your attention. You really can’t look away from the screen. Finally, we have to talk about the sets. The entire movie is contained in two to three locations, and we would consider that metaphorical of how limiting the technology has been for people. With its so-called ‘definite’ answers, it has severely contained people’s imagination by telling them that they have found everything they are looking for. There is so much more to this movie than meets the eye. It is simply one of those things that keeps on giving the more you watch it. Another reason we love this movie so much is because, for once, we are watching a well-written and understood story that is not based on a book. People got together and decided to be original, and the result was beautiful.
In conversations about love, we often talk as if the emotion is the be-all and end-all of our emotional struggles. Even in that, there is an eternal debate between the realists and the optimists, with the pessimists making the occasional appearance. Perhaps it is safe to assume that when you boil down love to just science, the last group of people will find themselves silenced once and for all. What the movie does is present the conflict between the other two groups. Anna is the optimist, while Amir and Ryan are the realists, who are simply in two different situations.
When watching the movie, it is very easy to categorize everything as ‘dull.’ After all, there is very little action or dialogue. But then we remember that the other film that we are comparing Fingernails to, which is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, had brought forth a similar opinion from us when we watched it as a restless teen. The latter movie has been panned by many for its take on love and the unfolding of a clearly toxic love story. But the common theme between both movies has been how science has tried to find a solution to the heartbreak caused by romantic love and found that it is never what human beings want. We are repeating what we said about Fingernails being the new age and the far more relevant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In fact, it has made its point way better than the older movie ever managed to do, and if Fingernails ever gets the hype it deserves, nobody would raise an eyebrow at why it is a favorite of so many.
Fingernails is simply one of those movies that has to be watched to be understood. There is so much of it that keeps making you think by wanting to revisit. Apple TV+ is doing something right with its content by focusing on the correct measure of quality and quantity, and it is the one platform that gives us hope in a sea of mediocrity. We would want everyone to watch and debate Fingernails because this movie should not be missed at any cost.