A false accusation devastates a man and his community in 'The Hunt'
The Hunt is a valuable depiction of child-abuse panic, in which there's a collective jumping to drastic conclusions about one subject where everyone is judged guilty before being proven innocent. (If you doubt that judgment, look on any gay-related Yahoo news comment-board, in which some posters will invariably state the "fact" that all gay people are pedophiles and/or were "turned" gay by being molested as children.) Many parents fervently believe "children don't lie" — yet they do all the time. Sometimes inadvertently because they don't understand the complexities of a situation, sometimes blatantly because they're simply trying to tell adults what they want to hear.
The Hunt's emotional engine is Lucas' horror at the speed and extremity with which he's ostracized by his own community — and its willingness to believe the worst about him on anecdotal evidence. Mikkelsen's imperfect yet upstanding father and teacher here is a fine parabolic illustration of such predator-hyperconscious adults' victims. Engrossing, nuanced, and twisty right up to the fade-out, The Hunt questions one of our era's defining public hysterias. In our own society, many people believe in entrusting guns to young children whom they wouldn't dream of thinking mature enough to drive, drink, or absorb basic sex ed. Nonetheless — and this is not to remotely dismiss the existence and prosecution of genuine child sexual abuse cases — they assume children always know what they're talking about when they're nose-led into accusing elders of vaguely grapevine-heard behaviors they probably don't yet understand the actual meaning or consequences of. *
THE HUNT opens July 26 in Bay Area theaters.