With direction from Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, NYAD tells the story of how long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad took on the challenge of swimming from Havana, Cuba to the Floriday Keys.
You might be wondering ‘what on earth was she thinking?’ and that’s a fair question. Unlike her earlier feats of swimming around Manhattan and taking on a path from The Bahamas to Florida, she decided to take on this monstrous task after retirement. During a time of self reflection, she refused to accept what society wanted her to do which was “grow old and die”. So, with the help of her best friend Bonnie (Jodie Foster), Diana (Annette Bening) starts training for what will be her crowning achievement.
Is it absolutely crazy to swim 110 miles from another country without assistance or the protection of a shark cage? Yes, it absolutely is. There were a lot of odd moments in this film which is why I can’t cosign on the popular opinion that this film just oozes inspiration. Throughout the film, she threw caution to the wind, verbally put down her team (a group that was volunteering at that), and shrugged off both her coach and her navigator repeatedly. It’s ok to be determined and want to see something through, but it’s absolutely foolish to ignore wise council.
Because Nyad’s character was so trash that I have to give Annette Bening her flowers right now for her performance. You know Nyad has to be a piece of work for Annette Bening to draw anger out of you. And I’d be remiss to mention how physical this role had to be. Nyad was 64 years old when she made her fifth attempt to swim from Cuba to The Keys and a good chunk of the film was a combination of archived training clips and scenes of Annette Bening doing the same.
The self-centered long-distance swimmer was quite stubborn and quick to make demands. Even with a navigator in John Bartlett (Rhys Ifans), if she felt like hitting the high-seas with a clear storm on the horizon, she was going to do it. On her first attempt, the currents were too strong. On her second attempt, she was attacked by a box jellyfish. Her superiority complex and inability to see anything beyond her own desires pushed her team and her friendship with Bonnie to the brink. By her fifth attempt and some time away from everyone before reconnecting with her team, she was able to achieve her goal.
“[On swimming] It looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.Annette Bening as Diana Nyad in “NYAD”
NYAD gets a 6.5 out of 10. It’s a story about a swim that didn’t need to happen and actually, still to this day, hasn’t been recognized by any marathon swimming governing body. The achievement was clearly for self, which is how her character was portrayed deeply in this film. This low-thrills sports film isn’t going to give you the excitement or intrigue of Beckham or The Last Dance. It will captivate you with its own special spell of boredom.
*There are flashbacks of a sexual assault which might be triggering for some.
NYAD will premiere in select theaters October 20 and on Netflix November 3.
Photos: Courtesy of Netflix