Nyad (2023)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on March 1, 2024 @ tonymacklin.net.

It may be a challenge to get on the wavelength of Nyad (Netflix). But if you can make the plunge, you'll almost certainly have a memorable experience.

Nyad is the "true story" of swimmer Diana Nyad, and it's truly told. What gives it its stellar veracity are the three leading performances.

Nyad, ably directed by previous documentarians Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, is adapted by Julia Cox from Nyad's book Find a Way. The three capture the essence of Diana's experience.

The music - Janis Joplin, Neil Young, et al. - adds to the enthralling essence.

Diana Nyad was an accomplished swimmer, who as a 28-old tried to swim from Cuba to Florida. She failed. The film focuses on her next tries when she is in her sixties. There are flashbacks to her youth. There is also footage of the actual Diana Nyad.

At first it's hard to relate to the leading character Diana Nyad (Annette Bening). She's obnoxious and unsympathetic. And as her best friend Bonnie (Jodie Foster) says, she has a self-serving, off-putting "superiority complex."

But what transcends the negative qualities of her character is the powerhouse performance by Annette Bening as the diving diva. Lily Gladstone can only sink in the wake of the brilliant performance by Bening. Bening may not get the Best Actress Oscar - she has not ever won any of her 5 previous nominations - but she gets into the fervent soul of her character as few actresses have. When she stumbles through the surf and toward the beach near the end, she has reached the ultimate that an actress can seek. She has approached perfection.

Some of us have watched the career of Jodie Foster from childhood star to veteran actress. She too has been nominated for an Oscar in Nyad - Best Supporting Actress. She won an Oscar for Best Actress in The Accused (1988). As Diana's best friend and her coach, she is subservient but strong. She is able to make both credible. Bening and Foster have erratic chemistry.

Also adding a crucial element to the chemistry is the authenticity of Rhys Ifans as navigator John Bartlett. He brings a no-nonsense quality to the trio. John's experience is irreplaceable as he charts the dangerous unpredictable currents of the 110 mile distance - 50 hours in the water - from Cuba to Florida.

Their quest is a free swim without cages to protect Diana from the threats of sea creatures, e.g., sharks, jellyfish, sting rays.

It is a nearly impossible quest. Of course, there is some disagreement about verification.

But what matters most is the potency of the acting.

In Nyad, acting tells the truth.

© 2000-2023 Tony Macklin