The family-friendly film Heidi is a tear-jerker about an orphan who is sent to live with her grumpy and scary grandfather in the Swiss Alps. As the city girl that Heidi is, it takes her a while to get used to the idyllic mountain life but soon she and the old man find more in common than anyone could ever have imagined.
Alain Gsponer is the director tasked with adapting this 19th century novel to the big screen and he does it pretty well. Heidi tells a modified Cinderella story of an abandoned girl with some rather uncomfortable undertones. This is parenting at its worst so to speak, where adults seem so self-centered that they shouldn’t have ever been allowed to have any children. It certainly makes a good sob story.
Sure, we’ve seen this almost too many times before, but even a dried up old film critic like myself manages to squeeze out a tear or two to this overly cute feel-good story for kids. Heidi has its impressive qualities with nicely done costumes and a backdrop that will make you want to move to Yodletown in an instant, but the best part is the acting.
A lot of movies that take the risky gamble of putting child actors in the lead often sink because of that. Finding good child actors is hard (not everyone is Dakota Fanning) but if there is one thing Heidi has managed to do it is to gather some surprisingly solid talent with legend Bruno Ganz and newcomers Quirin Agrippi and Anuk Steffen leading the pack.
Heidi is a comfortable two-hour break from a world that we all wish could be just a little bit simpler. In Heidi’s Switzerland it certainly is. The tragedy never becomes too unbearable and the evil never too scary, and although there are some loose ends that never seem to be explained, this movie works surprisingly well. With its black and white morals, it promotes kindness, tenderness and compassion, something that we all need a lot of right now.
By Daniel Ogalde