Don’t believe anything anybody says in this movie – you are not expected to.

Almost anybody, that is. In Sharper, a Matryoshka doll-style film about cons nested within cons, characters who repose their trust in sweet nothings and meaningful somethings pay a heavy price. So do viewers, who, having already been tipped off about the trust deficit, will not have a hard time guessing where the film is headed.

Sharper is out on Apple TV+. The 116-minute film marks the feature debut of television veteran Benjamin Caron. The screenplay, by Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka, has one enduring idea: emotional attachment is the biggest, and oldest, con game around.

The romance between Tom (Justice Smith), the owner of a store that sells rare books, and literature student Sandra (Briana Middleton) is aptly described by one of Tom’s friends: she’s like a dream.

From Tom, we move backwards and sideways in time to the other key characters: Max (Sebastian Stan), Madeline (Julianne Moore), Richard (John Lithgow). As the connections between them becomes apparent, the film allows us to savour the performances of Julianne Moore, whose sweetness sheathes ruthlessness, and Sebastian Stan, as dead-eyed as he is cold-hearted.

It’s a pity that the narrative loses interest in mining the depths of human heart, but the knife that it sticks in is always sleek and shiny. The richly atmospheric cinematography, by Charlotte Bruss Christensen, and editor Yan Miles’s precise cutting ensures that whatever the state of the script, Sharper is always dressed up with somewhere to go.

Sharper (2023).