Nyad Movie Review

Nyad movie poster

Annette Bening reminds us of her unquestionable talent as the obsessive long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad in Nyad, a decently engrossing sports drama that doesn’t crest any new waves but is worth more than a few breaststrokes.

Bening is terrific as the determined swimmer, who at age 64 defied the odds and swam from Cuba to the Florida Keys, because why wouldn’t you want to do that. It took her multiple attempts as she had to fend off sharks, jellyfish, and weather.

Jodie Foster also is quite good as her friend and coach Bonnie Stoll. Foster’s role isn’t particularly meaty, but Foster’s chemistry with Bening is one of the movie’s most powerful elements.

Nyad, directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (who made the absolutely butt sweat-inducing documentary Free Solo, as well as the excellent The Rescue), is well made and does a good job demonstrating the challenges the swimmer faced. It’s not the most suspenseful of sports dramas, in part because long distance swimming is primarily a solo sport (and there is always a team on a boat drifting alongside), but it’s well done.

Kudos should also go to makeup team, who did an amazing job of making Bening look like shit after facing the elements and worse.

Nyad is a story about personal achievement, but it misses the opportunity to allow Bening to dive even deeper. The swim portrayed here has been met with controversy; I don’t care enough to research it in depth, but needless to say aspects of her swim have been questioned. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting (but perhaps less entertaining) to see how Nyad would react to and presumably fight her critics?

Nyad is a worthwhile little film with a great performance by Bening. It comes short of being a must-see, but still serves as a strong portrayal of an incredible feat most of us wouldn’t even think about doing in the first place.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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