NYAD destroyed me in the best possible way. It made me laugh, it made me crush on Jodie Foster, it made me sit on the edge of my seat and my heart-beat race, it made me cry ugly happy tears. This is a movie that is just to well put together, so compelling, so engaging, full of such wonderful characters, that I did not want it to end. I am Team Nyad. The only slightly sad thing is that as much as I suspect Annette Bening is using this as her shot at an Oscar, the actor who steals every scene is Jodie Foster.
Bening stars as Diana Nyad, a real life champion swimmer whose dream was to swim a hundred miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida through shark-infested water. That dream eluded her in her thirties, but pissed off at turning sixty and being written off, she decides to make another attempt. The film makes it clear that Nyad is not short of ego and that kind of ruthless selfishness that makes winners win, but it also makes it clear that marathon open-water swimming is a team-sport. Nyad, for all her stubborn egomania, is beloved. Most of all, by her multi-decade best friend and partner in crime Bonnie, played with swagger, charisma and great fun by Jodie Foster.
As we follow Diana in her quest, we are always aware of the dangers and the stakes thanks to clear and crisp direction from Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin. They beautifully weave in flashbacks and audio from the real, younger Nyad, explaining the physical and mental challenge of ocean swimming, and make us feel part of her ramshackle team of navigator, captain, shark and jellyfish experts. The result is a film no less compelling than the directors' previous Oscar winning documentary film FREE SOLO. The idea of having documentarians fictionalise this story is inspired because it so beautifully takes the best of the both formats. I cannot recommend the resulting film highly enough, if for no other reason that to see Jodie Foster have more fun on screen than I have ever seen her have. And just to see older women succeed, and female friendship and excellence celebrated.
NYAD is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 121 minutes. It played Telluride, Toronto and London 2023. It opens in the USA on October 20th in cinemas and on November 3rd on Netflix.