(director/writer: Christos Nikou; screenwriters: Stavros Raptis, Sam Steiner; cinematographer: Marcell Ray; editor: Yorgos Zafeiris; music: Christopher Stracey; cast: Jessie Buckley (Anna), Luke Wilson (Duncan), Riz Ahmed (Amir), Jeremy Allen White (Ryan), Annie Murphy (Natasha), Amanda Arcuri (Sally); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Christos Nikou, Coco Francini, Andrew Upton, Cate Blanchett, Lucas Wiesendanger; Apple TV+; 2023-UK/USA)

“Despite a talented cast, there’s no way of getting around viewing this superficial film as anything but trash.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Let’s call it an oddball sort of low-tech sci-fi film that presents itself as a dystopian rom/com relationship flick about what it means to fall in love. It’s directed in a gimmicky and lighthearted way by Greek filmmaker Christos Nikou (“Apples”), making his English language debut, and is co-written by Stavros Raptis and Sam Steiner.

It asks in its premise if technology could determine whether you and your partner are perfectly matched in love. And it asks if you would take such a test if it involved ripping out one of your fingernails – without anesthesia. The absurd film is set seemingly in the near future.

The unemployed teacher Anna (Jessie Buckley) is in a satisfactory relationship with Ryan (Jeremy Allen White), but wonders if it will be a lasting one.

She’s just been hired to work at the Love Institute, which administers the love tests described above.

In training,
Anna’s idealistic boss Duncan (Luke Wilson) assigns her to work with the instructor Amir (Riz Ahmed) to counsel couples and learn from him how to use the pliers to give the fingernail test (I bet Hamas can administer the test). The bloodied nails are then placed in a microwave-like computer that comes up with a love score to determine if the couple is compatible.

Meanwhile Anna and Amir find they are attracted to each other the old fashioned way through their emotions and through a physical attraction, but as long as employed at the Love Institute they would have to take the fingernail test to prove their love.

If you don’t know you’re in love and have to torture yourself to find out, you’re most likely an idiot. Despite a talented cast, there’s no way of getting around viewing this superficial film as anything but trash. Though it might work as a Three Stooges comedy.

REVIEWED ON 11/19/2023  GRADE: D