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Entertainment Review: Nyad

If there could be a movie particularly inspiring for seniors, it is Nyad (on Netflix), the real-life story of long-distance swimmer, Diana Nyad, who at age 64, finally fulfilled her dream of swimming across the Straits of Florida, a 110-mile journey in shark and jellyfish infested waters. It’s a feat very few swimmers attempted and hardly anyone succeeded—so at that age, it was a marvel of determination and physical prowess. As Nyad says at the end when she staggers on to the beach at Key West, sunburnt, swollen and exhausted: “Never give up” and “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”

Diana Nyad—played by this year’s Oscar nominee Annette Bening—had attempted this swim when she was 28 and failed; so it remained at the back of her mind as an unfulfilled ambition, till she suddenly decided to go for it again, roping in her reluctant friend, Bonnie (Jodie Foster, also nominated for Best Supporting Actress) to be her coach. It takes killer training and immense stamina to swim nonstop for over two days and nights, but Nyad is willing to put in the effort, never mind the discouragement from everywhere.

Nyad is seen as an abrasive kind of person who steamrolls over even the people who care for her, but her resolve brings on board people who have nothing to gain by her glory—like navigator John Bartlett (Rhys Ifans), and a dedicated crew of 40 who have to accompany her to deal with sharks, stingrays, storms and strong currents. For the feat to be ratified as unassisted, nobody can touch her till she is out of the water. As she says in the end, it may look like a solitary sport…but it takes a team.”

She fails four times and almost dies, but is still driven to yell “Courage” and jump into the sea once again. Bonnie, who cares about her friend, tries to dissuade her, but also puts her own life on hold so that Nyad can achieve her lifelong goal. The swim itself has limitations when it comes to creating drama, it is the relationship between Diana and Bonnie, the unstinting support of Bartlett and the silent backing of the accompanying boat’s captain, Dee Brady (Karly Rothenberg) that give the film its sweet flavour. There are flashbacks to the abuse she faced as a young woman at the hands of her coach, Jack Nelson (Eric T Miller), which does indicate Nyad’s bravery, but does not really enhance her achievement in any manner.

Five-times Academy Award nominee, Annette Bening, at age 66 plays a character that requires a lot of physical and mental strength; even if the swimming shots are short, it must still have been exhausting for a non-professional swimmer. It is Bening’s film, but Jodie Foster also stands out as the friend who imbibes that ne’er-say-die spirit of her obstinate pal and does all it takes to help Nyad break that impossible record. The film (on Netflix) is worth seeing for these two wonderful actresses at their best.

Nyad

Directed by Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Cast: Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans and others

On Netflix

Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best-known entertainment journalists. A National Award-winning fim critic and author of several books on film and theatre. She tweets at @deepagahlot

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