The Hunt ★★★½

Kids say the damning-est things.

The Hunt manages to capture one of the more terrifying aspects of adult-child relationships (at least to me, an adult male): severe mishandling of a situation, and the resulting downward spiral of miscommunication, distrust and fear that isolates a man and poisons a community.

It's a chilling portrayal of the viral nature of stigma. And it’s interesting to see it unfold in rural Denmark, where - unlike in most of North America - children are still free to be out in public on their own, within a tight-knit community that doesn’t readily breed this sort of wanton witch-hunting. But it’s grounded to the point of being hauntingly possible, regardless of the culture it occurs in.

It’s expertly acted, relying heavily on the talents of Mads Mikkelsen and a cast that feels incredibly real. It’s also beautiful, capturing a rather dismal few months in the late fall - before reminding us that even spring’s renewal can never be a complete reset of tone. The film takes a straight-forward, and yet unusual perspective, framing the story entirely from the accused’s side. But while we're along for the ride in all of the protagonist's unjust accusations and can empathize with his lack of information amongst the cloud of whispered controversy, this approach has the unfortunate effect of fostering a rather binary story with binary character choices.

It’s unfortunate that its final coda feels like a heavy-handed attempt to unsettle a conclusion that is otherwise far too neatly collected, when much of what Vinterberg is able to accomplish here hits all of the right notes.