A few days after her 60th birthday, Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) confides in her best friend Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster) that she wants to get back into training in order to achieve her life’s big dream. She wants to become the first person to swim the 165 km separating Cuba and Key West without an anti-shark cage. However, as the wise Bonnie, with whom she was briefly in a relationship, reminds her, if Diana has not managed to do it at 28, the challenge will be even greater more than 30 years later.
You don’t have to have a penchant for sports dramas inspired by real-life events to be captivated by Nyad, the first feature-length fiction film from documentary filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, winners of an Oscar for Free Solo. Well-versed in recounting the perilous exploits of extraordinary athletes, the tandem has the gift of keeping spectators in suspense – whether they know the outcome of the story or not – thanks to breathtaking underwater scenes and muscular editing, which emphasize the pitfalls encountered by the heroine and her team.
Punctuated by numerous visual archives, we see Diana Nyad at different periods of her career, this story of friendship, will and resilience, written by Julia Cox according to the standards of the genre, takes a completely different turn when the we dive into the swimmer’s youthful memories. With delicacy and eloquent unsaid words, the source of Diana’s trauma is then revealed to us. These scenes, which are interwoven with dreamlike aquatic moments, allow the film to move away from simple sporting hagiography.
Narcissistic, cantankerous, opinionated, rehashing the words of his father of Greek origin to anyone who will listen, Nyad is not a character to whom we attach from the outset – which is surprising since the film is inspired by her autobiography Find a Way published in 2015. Fortunately, Annette Bening manages to humanize the admirable high-level athlete. At her side, in the thankless role of the altruistic and devoted friend, Jodie Foster breathes humor and lightness into her score. Proudly bearing the marks of time on their resplendent faces, the two accomplices embody the real quiet strength that carries Nyad.