Review: ‘Fingernails’ is a thought experiment in love and certainty

One day, I put on a pair of shoes that were too big so I could run outside to grab the mail. I snagged my big toenail in them, and it tore clean off. So I had a visceral reaction to the premise of Christos Nikou’s recent film Fingernails, which is currently streaming on Apple TV+. 

But there is much more to this film than removing one’s fingernails to determine if you and your partner are in love. Instead, this is a fascinating, complex look at how we look at love through the lens of authority figures and how we can sink into complacency in long-term relationships. As much as it called to memory losing my toenail, those two aspects resonated for me.

Anna and Ryan’s search for closeness

In the near future, a test can determine if you and your partner are a positive match. Anna (Jessie Buckley, Men, Women Talking) and Ryan (Jeremy Allen White, The BearShameless) have been together for several years, and when they took the test, they found they were 100% in love. Despite their positive results, Anna feels discontent with their relationship, concerned that they are falling into routines and patterns, keeping them from truly connecting. To try to discover ways to bring them closer together, Anna takes a job at a training institute where a new program was designed to increase the chances for couples to experience a positive outcome in their test.

Jessie Buckley and Riz Ahmed in “Fingernails,” now streaming on Apple TV+. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.


Anna is paired with Amir (Riz Ahmed, Sound of MetalRogue One), the two of them working with various couples, helping them achieve a deeper connection, resulting in a match. They work together well as colleagues, and as that connection deepens, Anna finds herself curious about whether she could be in love with both Ryan and Amir. 

Purity culture and societal expectations

I grew up in a conservative Christian family, and my prime dating days were in the 1990s during the height of the purity culture movement. One wasn’t to test drive relationships because breakups were just practice for divorce, and after all, you weren’t supposed to fornicate before you were married, so what was the purpose of dating anyway? 

Even for those not raised with a strict moral code, the idea that marriage is forever is pervasive. If you said yes to someone, that yes is intended to be ironclad. There was no fingernail-pulling test – you just had to say yes. And once you said yes, there was no need to examine your relationship further. You were a match. You were staying together. Why work on something already stamped as correct, whether by religion or society?

Fingerprints has lovely and understated acting performances

The three actors at the center of this movie all give lovely, if understated, performances. Buckley is fast becoming one of my favorite actors, and this film amplified that. She creates such earnestness in Anna that I can’t help but want her to find happiness. But the performances from both White and Ahmed keep me from rooting for one or the other to be the love interest. White could have played Ryan contemptuously in his attitude, but he never steers into that territory. Ahmed could become loathsome as “the other man,” but instead, we see yet another person searching for connection. So much of the tension in this film relies on these three, all being characters we like, and I felt as though they all achieved this.

Jeremy Allen White and Jessie Buckley in “Fingernails,” now streaming on Apple TV+. Image courtesy of Apple TV+.

My journey – reflecting on love and relationships

When you grow up believing not only that marriage must be forever but is God-ordained to be so, laxity can easily creep in. Why probe your relationship for potential problems when their existence might only complicate something that you cannot leave? Why work on something that simply is correct? 

Eventually, however, I had to look at my marriage. I had to discover how I could love someone and still feel lonely. And I found that despite the simple answers of right and wrong as told to me by an authority, I had to leave. I couldn’t stay because I had to. I had to be in a relationship that I knew could crumble but that I wanted to preserve. One where we continually searched for connection. One where carelessness was not an option.

Fingernails as a thought experiment on film

Fingernails is less of a story and more of a thought experiment put on film. If you know definitively that the person that you’re with loves you and that you love them, does that certainty make your relationship more solid? The easy answer is yes. Of course, it’s better to know that you’re in love and the other person loves you back. Ambiguity induces stress, and a simple yes or no must be better. But this movie questions those assumptions, showing how certainty can breed complacency. 

It also is a reminder that the people in the relationship are the ones who determine if it is the correct one for them. Not God. Not your parents. Not society. Not a test. Not even your partner. Just you. It may be infinitely more terrifying to live that way, but maybe the terror is what makes it work. I’ve always thought that my heart knows better than my fingernails anyway. 

4 ½ stars

How to watch Fingernails

Fingernails is now streaming on AppleTV+. Tune in however you like to stream your media.

Your thoughts on Fingernails

Have you watched Fingernails yet? Do you have thoughts you want to share on the film? Join the conversation by commenting below or following us on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MoviesWeTexted.

If you’re looking for something else to watch that will be on Apple TV+, check out Ben Miller’s recent review of Ridley Scott’s Napoleon.