“Nyad” is a new biographical film that tells the story of long-distance swimmer, author, journalist and passion powerhouse Diana Nyad. The movie is based on the book „Find a Way” (great title) by the swimmer herself. Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (it’s their narrative debut) and starring Annette Bening and Jodie Foster, the film is a masterful exploration of Nyad’s remarkable career and complicated character.
The film opens with archival footage of Nyad’s peak-performance appearances in the media including The Tonight Show, where she shows immense confidence, drive, and passion for swimming. Within seconds off the start, the foundation for our protagonist is solidly laid down; she is not someone you should mess with.
As the plot progresses, we see Nyad in the present day, living in Los Angeles and filled with energy, irony and boredom. She has not found a new passion and meaning for her life, therefore she is stuck in a strange, limbo state. Shortly after her 60th birthday, Diana decides to end her 30 year hiatus from the sport and goes for a swim. Then for another. Then for another. And another. Finally, she introduces her idea of turning her last, failed mission to swim from Cuba to Florida to her best friend Bonnie (played brilliantly by Jodie Foster).
Bonnie first thinks Nyad is having a nervous breakdown but she soon realizes this is all bloody serious business. Bonnie becomes Diana’s coach and puts a mortgage on her own house to co-finance the adventure. The training period starts, sponsor-hunting and crew gathering are ON. This subplot of unconditional love and friendship, forms another layer of depth to the film, highlighting the importance of having a strong support system.
The screenplay by Julia Cox is a triumph, capturing Nyad’s unique voice and personality. This is a visually stunning film (dp: Claudio Miranda), with bright colors and beautiful cinematography that reflects the warmth and positivity of the story. Bening’s performance is nothing short of breathtaking as she brings Nyad’s inner struggle to life on screen. Nyad’s blunt and sometimes abrasive personality may make her difficult to relate to at times, but Bening’s portrayal makes her human and vulnerable, allowing the audience to connect with her on a deeper level.
While the flashback scenes may be a bit overdone with their dreamy lighting and blurring effects, they do help to set the tone for Nyad’s nostalgic reflections on her past and hallucinations once physical exhaustion strikes him in the water. Diana’s reflections on her life, achievements, missed opportunities and personal traumas (as a teenager she was abused by her coach) add a depth and richness to the character that is both captivating and moving. We get to understand what made Nyad a fierce survivor.
The film also does a great job of exploring the many aspects of high-performance athletics beyond just the physical performance itself. From the logistical challenges of organizing and funding the swim to the mental and emotional challenges faced by Nyad, the film provides a well-rounded and comprehensive look at what it takes to achieve greatness in this field.
Ultimately, “Nyad” is a story about the power of determination and the human spirit. It’s a reminder that it’s never too late to pursue our dreams and that, with the right mindset and support, we can achieve anything we truly commit to. And as Nyad says whoever doubts us „can f*ck off”.
„Nyad” is streaming on Netflix.
~ by Dora Endre ~