(director/writer: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi; screenwriters: Julia Cox, based on the book Find A Way by Diana Nyad; cinematographer: Claudio Miranda; editor: Christopher Tellefsen; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Annette Bening (Diana Nyad), Jodie Foster (Bonnie Stoll), Rhys Ifans (John Bartlett), Luke Cosgrove (Luke Tipple), Karly Rothenberg (Dee Brady), Garland Scott (Jon Rose), Eena Yi (Angel Yanigahara), Anna Harriette Pittman (Teenage Diana); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Andrew Lazar, Teddy Schwarzman; Netflix; 2023)
“Biopic on the world-class long-distance swimmer, Diana Nyad.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Co-directors and co-writers of this and other films are the husband and wife team of Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo”/”Return to Space”) and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. They present this biopic on the world-class long-distance swimmer, Diana Nyad (Annette Bening), who retired at age 30 from athletic competition but at the age of 60 swam from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida, which takes 2 days to swim the 110 miles. This was her long-time dream, after failing in 1978 to do the swim. It’s noteworthy as the longest ocean swim in history.
Screenwriter Julia Cox adapts it to the screen from Diana Nyad’s memoir “Find A Way.”
This time Nyad gets her old friend and gay lover Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster) to be her coach, and she puts her life on hold while helping Nyad. They hire an expert nautical navigator, John Bartlett (Rhys Ifans), to chart a course. The swim is on after several unsuccessful attempts by the handlers to change Nyad’s mind.
It’s quite a feat, as Nyad must deal with exhaustion, nausea, hallucinations, and of trying to avoid venomous jelly fish and sharks.
It shows Nyad as a great athlete but far from a perfect person, who is egotistical, short-tempered and can be obnoxious.
The film treads water when it goes into flashbacks of her troubled childhood, where she suffers from sexual abuse.
It shows Nyad’s tenacity to succeed, making 5 attempts to do the swim from Cuba to Florida, but lacks the depth to come up with greater discoveries about its complicated swimmer.
The underwater photographer Pete Zuccarini spent two months filming it in 2022. Bening dedicated herself to the project and spent three to eight hours a day training with swimming coaches in a tank off the coast off the Dominican Republic.
The actresses keep the film afloat, and should get nominations in the categories of Best Actress and Supporting Actress.
It played at the Toronto Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 11/19/2023 GRADE: B