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Review: Nyad. A legend brought to the big screen

  • Release year: 2023
  • Director: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
  • Producers: Andrew Lazar and Teddy Schwartzman.
  • Screenplay by: Julia Cox.
  • Cinematographer: Claudio Miranda.
  • Music by: Alexandre Desplat.

Synopsis: biopic of Diana Nyad focused of her last great swim, from Cuba to Florida, at the age of 64.

Shotgun Commentary: thrilling and inspiring story about fearlessness at any age.

Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) having hallucinations while swimming.
Source: Nyad (Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2023).


Nyad tells the story of how, in her 60s, the athlete Diana Nyad decided to swim from Cuba to Florida. She tried this feat in her 20s, but couldn’t achieve it. For this reason, she decided to beat the odds and train hard to achieve that long-life dream.

Crucial voices

Diana Nyad is one of many women whose inspiring stories are turned into forgettable 24-hour anecdotes by the media. To see her achievement turned into a film makes sure that this event stays relevant years after it took place. It serves as a great reminder, especially for the female audience, that life is far from over at the age of sixty. This is one of the greatest aims that cinema can be used for.

Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) swimming. Source: Nyad
(Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2023).

For decades, women have been taught to be accessories, mere decorations that turn useless outside the house; or workers until they snatch a man to pay everything for them. While this situation is sluggishly changing, the barrier of age is still not a very popular subject.

The media, reflection and (let’s be honest) main educator of society, considers most women past their forties grandmothers, witches or lonely sour weirdos. These roles are performed by actresses even younger. A fact that sends the message that after thirty, the female population has one foot in the grave and the other in hell. Or what is possibly even worse, that, after their forties, they either have grandkids or their lives are over.

Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) working out coached by Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster). Source: Nyad (Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2023).

This pressure undermines and diminishes women’s worth. It reduces them to their physical appearance and their time alive, pretty much like you would price furniture, really. So it is extra motivational to see two actresses over her 60s embody such fierce women. It sets an example and a new mindset for women all over the world: you are not defined by your family nor by your age.

Icon portrays legend

Annette Bening portrays Diana Nyad, an accomplished athlete and long-distance swimmer. Nyad is a courageous woman who has never let age define her nor her abilities.

Bening showcases the good and the bad in the swimmer, her flaws and strengths mentally, both physically and socially. This complexity avoids successfully the common action of fitting female characters in boxes. She is not a bad person, but she can be mean and self-centred. Her body is not young, but her mind is strong and her will unbreakable. She is loyal and loving, but hot-headed and stubborn.

Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) about to go into a pool. Source: Nyad
(Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2023).

All these nuances are displayed beautifully, serving as proof of Bening’s talent and of Nyad’s real-life existence. It avoids heroism and exaggerations, which is a constant reminder that the story actually happened. All in all, the writing, the performance and the actual facts intertwine exquisitely to properly share Nyad’s experience with the audience.

Keep the stars coming

Jodie Foster plays Bonnie Stoll, Nyad’s trainer, in a role that could have easily been disregarded, but becomes crucial thanks to Foster’s performance and the talented adaptation of the facts into the screen.

A trainer is always crucial for any athlete, but with a celerity with a personality as big and out-there as Nyad’s, it is hard to not get lost in the background. Foster manages to convey the importance of Stoll in Nyad’s adventure and in her life, as well as proving that you can be fit and sixty, no problem.

Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster) cheering Nyad on. Source: Nyad
(Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2023).

Her performance is passionate and her dedication apparent. She channels Bonnie’s energy and personality perfectly, delivering yet another phenomenal character for the audience to enjoy.

Additionally, both Bonnie and Diana are in great shape in real life, but Foster’s athletic physique was both shocking and encouraging. Once the shock wears off, you realise that, if you want to, it is possible to maintain your physique without becoming a bodybuilder or getting a ton of operations. This is but further proof of the life and vitality that women have been taught to believe don’t exist after forty.

Foster is, in sum, still a badass both as a professional and as a woman, setting an incredible example for all women out there.

Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster) smiling at Nyad. Source: Nyad
(Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2023).

Advice to take from this movie:

  • You don’t have to lay down and wait for death after your forties.
  • If you are willing to work for it, anything is possible.
  • Beware of elder women, they can and will kick your ass if necessary.
Nyad swimming with her team next to her. Source: Nyad
(Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, 2023).

What’s your take? Have you watched Nyad ? What do you think of it? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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