SYNOPSIS: Athlete Diana Nyad sets out at 60 to achieve a nearly impossible lifelong dream: to swim from Cuba to Florida across more than 100 miles of open ocean.


Nyad in greek means “water nymph”.

In this sports biopic, Annette Bening plays Diana Nyad, an American long-distance swimmer, motivational speaker, author and more and famously failed to swim from Cuba to Florida back in 1978 at the age of 28.

In 2011 at the age of 61, Nyad attempts again to swim from Cuba to Florida under the help and tutelage of her best friend and once lover, Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster). Unfortunately, strong currents and box jellyfish once again deters her determination in achieving her feat despite three harrowing attempts that nearly took her life.

Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s first narrative film is dominated by Nyad’s persistent in achieving her goal. Her constant ego-driven, selfish personality becomes a chore for the people surrounding her. That includes Stoll who also chips to finance Nyad’s attempts by mortgaging her home and blatantly defying the advice of nautical expert John Bartlett (Rhys Ifans).

You can say that everyone surrounding Nyad is pissed off by her hot-headedness and obnoxiousness but you can’t deny the woman’s passion and determination to fulfil her dream even if it means dealing with exhaustion, nausea, hallucinations and facing venomous jelly fish and shark attacks throughout her numerous attempts.

Interspersed with archival footages, the screenplay by Julia Cox which in turn is based on Nyad’s own biography is further enhanced by the casting of Bening and Foster, two talented veterans who have no problem commanding the screen with their intense chemistry and brilliant performances. Whether it’s in the water or on dry land, the relationship or friendship in this case between the two friends is beautifully and convincingly told onscreen.

An obvious flaw of the drama however happens to be the flashbacks of Nyad’s troubled childhood which involved her being sexually abused by her swimming coach. It takes away the momentum of the challenge yet fails to link up Nyad’s past and present to form the woman she is today. And also, the drama deliberately left out Nyad’s controversial achievements and allegations which might make for an interesting argument.

Shot entirely in a water tank in the Dominican Republic instead of the open waters of Florida, the technical achievements and the dedication of Bening’s hard work is remarkably replicated flawlessly on the screen. Nyad in short is highly inspiring and will have you cheering from start to end even with a few missteps.


Review by Linus Tee



Genre: Drama/Biography
Starring: Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans, Karly Rothenberg, Jeena Yi, Luke Cosgrove, Eric T. Miller, Garland Scott, Anna Harriette Pittman  
Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin
Rating: M18
Year Made: 2023



Languages: English
Subtitles: English
Running Time: 2 hr 1 min