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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Nyad ***

Starring: Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans

Directors: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Country: USA

Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad is renowned for her many highly-publicised stunts. The lesbian athlete rose to US attention when she swam around the island of Manhattan in record time in 1975, before completing several highly publicised swims out in open water. However, the success that always eluded her was the renowned swim from Cuba to Florida, covering over 100 miles, which only two people had completed before and had included rests and shark cages. She wanted to swim this challenge without any of this and had attempted four times, failing each one.

In this biopic, Annette Bening (American Beauty, The Kids Are All Right) stars as Nyad who, in her 60s, decided to try one last time in 2013. With the help of her best friend and coach (Foster – The Silence Of The Lambs, Panic Room) she begins to train, gather a team and source equipment that will enable her to complete this treacherous swim.

The film revolves around the relationship between these two women, whose focus and drive is what allows her to finally pull it off. Of course we know from the outset that Nyad will succeed, but watching her – and Bening – put themselves through extreme physical exertion makes for somewhat compelling viewing. However, with a wholly conventional narrative and very few hiccups along the way, it does feel like a dramatisation without much of a purpose.

Also, the film totally glorifies Nyad, who is actually a controversial figure. The Guinness Book of World Records has since revoked their recognition of her achievement due to conflicting reports from crew members and a lack of correct documentation that proves her success, but yet the film doesn’t even acknowledge that this issue even arose. Frankly, that’s the more interesting part of the narrative, but because the directors wanted to make a prestige piece, we’ve ended up with something somewhat bland. Interesting maybe, but bland nonetheless.

UK Release: Out now to watch on Netflix.


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