Nyad Movie Review: Annette Bening and Jodie Foster elevate this riveting biopic

Nyad Movie Review: Annette Bening and Jodie Foster elevate this riveting biopic

Nyad tells the story of marathon swimmer and author Diana Nyad’s incredible feat of swimming from Havana, Cuba to Key West in Florida
Rating:(3.5 / 5)

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" questions poet Mary Oliver in her famous poem, The Summer Day. Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) quotes this quite often early in the film Nyad, which serves as one of her inspirations to take a once-in-a-lifetime plunge to swim from Cuba to Florida. There is just one hindrance – she is in her 60s and has to travel 780 km in the vast ocean to achieve her goal.

Director:  Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin

Starring: Annette Bening, Jodie Foster

Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, Nyad tells the story of marathon swimmer and author Diana Nyad’s incredible feat of swimming from Havana, Cuba to Key West in Florida, in 52 hours in 2013 at the age of 64 without a protective shark cage. On the tenth year of this achievement, this Netflix biopic explores her life in the 60s, her relentless pursuit of finishing what she started and her singular goal of leaving a mark in life.

Nyad is not new to fame. After hitting the spotlight in 1975 by swimming 28 miles (45 km) around the island of Manhattan, she attempted to swim from Cuba to Key West just three years later. But in about 42 hours, Nyad had to be pulled out due to strong currents. Nyad starts 30 years after that with Diana celebrating her 60th birthday with Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster), her friend and former racquetball player. What starts with a game of Scrabble, quickly takes a turn and before you know it, Diana is in the pool again, swimming for hours. Every time she takes a swim, the scenes are intercut with glimpses from her childhood, her passion for swimming and her dysfunctional family with a toxic father. Nyad’s existence revolves around water, so much so that she uses it as an outlet for her emotions – even during a most traumatic moment in her childhood. Throughout the entirety of the film, Annette lives and breathes as the sports star while Jodie is the anchor.

In one poignant moment, when Nyad tries to wear a sports tight outfit after decades, she looks at the tightness around the chest with her wrinkle-filled eyes and decides that she doesn’t want to be just “a bag of bones.” Nyad is full of chest-thumping moments of high like any other sports drama, but it is Diana’s sheer grit and determination that propels her dream despite being stung by jellyfishes twice, and being caught in deadly storms and strong currents. Her hallucinations become so vivid — almost like giving colour to her dreams — during the journey that she sees the Taj Mahal and shooting stars touching the sea.

However, the story doesn’t delve into her life post her historic feat, which was riddled with controversies, with the Guinness Book of World Records revoking her achievement and no recognised marathon swimming organisation recognising it either. Less a biopic and more a film that serves to inspire, this is a film that seeks to register the idea that  "you are never too old to chase your dreams". And that's not a disagreeable objective at all.

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