HENDERSON, Ky (WEHT) – Nyad is a new Netflix docudrama directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the directing team behind the Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo (2019). Annette Bening and Jodie Foster star in the story of Diana Nyad (Bening) who is a marathon swimmer attempting to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys in open water. Foster plays Bonnie Stoll, Diana’s best friend and coach who struggles with supporting her friend and protecting Diana’s life.
Swimming 110 miles for over fifty hours, all while being bombarded with strong currents, attacking sea life, and mental and physical exhaustion is a profoundly shocking achievement. It is the type of feat that one would think a human being would not be capable of accomplishing. So the story itself is gripping and incredibly harrowing, and the scenes that focus on Diana’s swimming for this long are well done. Chin and Vasarhelyi get the audience into Diana’s head as she keeps her mental acuity by singing songs and counting.
Some swimming sequences get somewhat repetitive by the end of the film. Likewise, there are some sports movie cliches; that is to say that the real story hems closely to some of the same tropes that you see in sports stories, and there are few surprises in the plot and character turns.
That said, Annette Bening has solidified herself as a legitimate Best Actress Oscar contender. The level of detail in Bening’s performance is astounding; she gets not only the physical presence of Diana Nyad but also the fierceness of her will. Additionally, when the plot demands that Diana fall victim to the rigors of constant swimming, Bening plays these beats believably.
We should also not overlook Foster who plays internal conflict as well as anyone. Bonnie is the perfect character for Foster’s talents, as she’s able to meet Diana’s competitive spirit but also convey the cautious fear inherent in the story. Together, Bening and Foster play a friendship that feels like it has an entire lifetime of history – familiarity, love, fights, reconciliations, all the things that make great friendship worthwhile.
Nyad, despite all the plot elements that feel familiar, is a strong, inspiring story, buoyed by some late career magic from Annette Bening and Jodie Foster, two actresses whose pairing has been a long time coming.
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