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UK: The Works UK Distribution
Cast: Emma Bolger, Max Von Sydow, Geraldine Chaplin, Diana Rigg, Pauline McLynn, Samuel Friend, Jessica Claridge, Del Synnott, Kellie Shirley, Robert Bathurst, Oliver Ford Davies, Caroline Pegg, Jessica James, Alexander Main, Karl Johnson, Arwel Gruffydd, Peter Wight
Director: Paul Marcus
UK: 104 mins
UK Certificate: U contains one scene of mild peril
UK Release Date: 19 August 2005
Heidi (Emma Bulger) is an orphan girl living in Switzerland just over 100 years ago. Her aunt, Detie (Pauline McLynn), who has looked after her for several years, is offered a domestic position in the city and feels she can no longer look after her.
She takes Heidi to lodge with the child's paternal grandfather, known as Uncle Alp (Max von Sydow) because he lives (alone) high up in the Alps. Initially resentful at having a young girl billeted on him, Alp gradually adapts to the arrangement and instructs Heidi in the ways of mountain life - its flora, making cheese, tending the animals - and encourages her friendship with Peter (Samuel Friend), an eleven-year-old goatherd who lives further down the mountain.
Life is blissful for Heidi until the day Aunt Detie returns to inform her and Alp that her employer in Frankfurt has heard of a young girl, Clara (Jessica Claridge), whose family are seeking a live-in companion of Clara's age. Clara, like Heidi, is an only - and motherless - child, but she is confined to a wheelchair (for reasons not altogether clear from the original story although her symptoms are close to those of what's now termed myalgic encephalopathy or ME). Detie then takes a reluctant Heidi away from Uncle Alp and on a long journey to the city.
As a bright, energetic, even feisty child, Heidi soon fits into her new environment and the two girls become fast friends. However, Clara's household is run by a stern housekeeper, Mrs Rottenmeier (Geraldine Chaplin), who takes against the untutored, illiterate Heidi. Life for Heidi, then, is a mixture of happy times with Clara and awkward encounters with Rottenmeier. On his occasional visits, Clara's father, Herr Sesemann, tells Rottenmeier that the young girl from the mountains has much in her character to commend her. And when Clara's grandmother visits the Sesemann house she, too, is charmed by Heidi and begins to teach her to read.
Over time, however, Heidi misses her grandfather and the mountain world she was forced to leave behind. She begins to sleepwalk and the Sesemann family doctor diagnoses homesickness, suggesting that Heidi should again live with her grandfather. When she returns to Uncle Alp she finds him, not surprisingly, very reluctant to take her back into his home.
As the days pass, however, Uncle Alp once again warms to Heidi, and her friendship with Peter is rekindled. The following summer she receives a letter from Frankfurt saying that the Sesemann family plans to come and visit her in the mountains.
Heidi is excited at the prospect of seeing Clara and the family again. When they arrive, Clara's family are enchanted by the Alpine scenery and by Clara's renewed acquaintance with Heidi. When, on an excursion in the mountains, Clara's empty wheelchair, having been pushed by Peter (who's jealous of the two girls' friendship), goes flying off into a ravine, Heidi instinctively runs after it and, in the process, falls over the edge and finds herself trapped on a small precipitous ledge. Uncle Alp comes to the rescue of his granddaughter but, as Heidi's head appears over the edge of the ravine, we see Clara miraculously standing up and walking towards her dear friend Heidi.
With the two friends reunited so dramatically, the adults take the decision that Clara should stay on and spend the rest of the summer with Heidi and Uncle Alp before resuming her life in Frankfurt, when Heidi will start at the village school below the mountain that is now and for ever her home.