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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Nyad (2023)

 Note: Co-written by Eddie Thomson, head writer

If you're interested in watching a high-octane swim for two hours, Nyad is just the film for you.

The Netflix hit is already Oscar-nominated, but that's not the only reason why you should tune in. It's a rare film that celebrates female friendship and the human body's resilience. 

The film follows famed swimmer Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) as she makes the treacherous journey from Havana, Cuba to the Florida Keys she set out to complete since her career began in 1979. The odds are set against her, as she is approaching her sixties, but she remains determined throughout and the audience remains grateful that she stays the course.

Theatrical Poster | Copyright 2023 Netflix

There by her side is her longtime friend and former partner Bonnie (Jodie Foster), who guides her throughout each of her four attempts to make this historic swim across the Atlantic Ocean. Also there is the navigator she hired to accompany her, John Bartlett (Rhys Ifans). Ifans, glad to say, brings his usual quirky charm, and grounding level-headedness, to the role as a ship captain reminiscent of the late Bill Paxton's Titanic treasure hunter Brock Lovett.

Nyad is directed by the documentary team Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin (Free Solo, Wildlife). This is our first film of theirs, but it's very clear what two things made their transition to narrative film so smooth: their incorporation of archival footage and perfect pacing. Footage of the actual Diana is used throughout the movie, which helps bring viewers into the breadth and depth of her career. Each attempt is also periodically time-stamped. When an attempt has to be abandoned, the near futility is doubly felt through both Bening's performance and knowing how close or far off she and her team are.

We also gain insight into her beginnings as a swimmer, although the filmmakers should have gone more in depth into some of her childhood experiences, especially one dealing with the trauma from a sexual harassment experience with her first coach Jack Nelson (Eric T. Miller). These are generally left as flashback scenes without much depth. 

Ultimately, what anchors this film is the friendship between Diana and Bonnie. It's rare to see platonic friendships on screen, with the same tension as romantic relationships. Viewers will be sucked in as the two tussle over Diana's stubbornness in completing the swim, especially after bad currents and a box jellyfish sting. 

When the film reaches its satisfying conclusion, you know this was a swim worth watching, even with all the complications in between. Watch for the strong chemistry between two of the finest actresses of their generation, and stay for the fast-paced swim journey. 




Elise Dixon said...

I enjoyed reaading this