Loneliness is not the main concern for the protagonist of this heartfelt true story about motivation. The film follows Diana Nyad, a retired American swimming champion turned sportscaster, as she attempts to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida without stopping. Throughout her journey, she must overcome obstacles such as sharks, jellyfish, and discrimination based on her gender and age. Along the way, she is supported by her best friend Bonnie, the grumpy but honest boat captain John, and memories of her father who motivated her and her coach who mistreated her.
The concept of others accompanying Nyad during her swim now holds greater importance. She is required to swim solo, experiencing nausea and bowel movements in the water, consuming liquid nutrition via a pole, wearing a suffocating anti-jellyfish mask, and remaining within the electronic pulse field to ward off sharks. If anyone were to touch her, her entire attempt would be deemed invalid.
Annette Bening portrays Nyad as a determined and slightly unhinged individual, refusing to give up despite numerous unsuccessful attempts. She gazes at others with narrowed and skeptical eyes, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood reading an eye chart. Bening delivers a powerful performance as Nyad experiences a near-breakdown while relentlessly pursuing her potentially fatal goal. Unfortunately, Jodie Foster’s role as her coach, friend, and former lover Bonnie does not provide much depth or challenge for her acting abilities. Rhys Ifans takes on the role of the gruff and experienced captain, guiding everyone through treacherous waters filled with sharks, exhaustion, and disappointment.
This is a powerful and inspiring tale, particularly towards the end. However, it may not fully address the traumatic reality of Diana’s childhood abuse. The main focus is on her triumph in overcoming the cruelty and persevering to accomplish something that serves as an inspiration for others. While this is commendable, it is achieved by quickly and superficially brushing over the painful memories.
Nyad is helmed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the duo behind the acclaimed 2018 film, Free Solo, which followed the daring feats of free climber Alex Honnold. While this is a similar tale, it is filled with more Hollywood cliches and lacks the raw authenticity of their previous work. The constant threat of exhaustion looms throughout, but the emotional depth of the story keeps it engaging.