What to watch this weekend: NYAD

November 17, 2023
What to watch this weekend: NYAD

Have you ever stumbled upon a film that not only leaves you in awe but also sparks a fire within you? Welcome to the experience of watching NYAD, a Netflix gem that not only tells the remarkable story of do-or-die marathon swimmer Diana Nyad but also serves as a powerful ode to the strength and possibilities for women who say no to being quiet and unseen (the part where Annette Bening says “the world wants me to shut my mouth and sit down and wait to die…I can’t. I won’t” is A MOMENT). 

But let’s go back to the start and what the film is all about. Picture this: 110 miles of unpredictable open ocean from Cuba to Florida, with no shark cage to shield you from life-threatening predators. That's the audacious dream Diana Nyad clung to, and "NYAD" takes us on a journey through her multiple attempts to conquer this seemingly insurmountable challenge.

Annette Bening delivers a performance that's not just committed but also mirrors the unwavering determination of the real-life athlete. Directed by the masterminds behind "Free Solo," Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, "NYAD" is more than just a movie; it's a portrait of obsession, a relentless pursuit of a goal that transcends gender norms and challenges societal expectations.

Unlike your typical sports movie, "NYAD" doesn't focus on external adversaries or competitions. Instead, the film delves into the internal struggles of a woman against herself. Diana Nyad's journey becomes a solo endeavour, a battle against her own limitations, fears, and doubts. And let's face it, how often do we see a female protagonist over 50 portrayed as a human locomotive charging toward her goals with the same ferocity we celebrate in male heroes of any age? 

The film introduces us to a stellar supporting cast, including Jodie Foster as Diana's best friend and coach, Bonnie Stoll. Foster brings a buoyant presence to the screen, serving as the human equivalent of those adorable pink floaties kids wear in the pool. Her character is not just a sidekick but an essential part of Diana's journey, showcasing the strength of female friendships and the importance of having a support system.

As Diana faces storms, jellyfish stings, and even a shark attack, the narrative unfolds with a focus on her unyielding determination. While some may find Diana's character unlikable, it's essential to recognize that her traits mirror those of countless male heroes we've adored over the years. Vasarhelyi and Chin resist toning down Diana's determination, embracing her flaws and showcasing her as a force to be reckoned with.

"NYAD" is more than just a swim across treacherous waters; it's a celebration of resilience, friendship, and the strength that comes with embracing one's own ambition. It challenges the stereotypes surrounding midlife, proving that it's never too late to dream big and pursue those dreams with unwavering determination.

The film skillfully weaves archival footage with dramatised moments, providing a holistic view of Diana's journey. It's not just about the physical feat of swimming for two days straight; it's about the vulnerability, the private moments, and the unspoken bond between Diana and Bonnie.

I found that the movie has its clunky moments here and there, like the unnecessary hallucination sequences and awkwardly staged flashbacks. However, overall I really enjoyed it and felt i was along for the journey with the characters. 

In the end, "NYAD" is a reminder that midlife (or hell….just LIFE!) can be a time of reinvention, of breaking boundaries, and of discovering the strength within. So, grab your popcorn, settle in, and let the waves of inspiration from "NYAD" wash over you (pun intended). Because, after all, it's never too late.

To read more about Diana Nyad’s incredible story, here’s an article from the New York Times from 2011.

Written by Alice Abba

Optimist, Foodie, Adventurer, occasional blog writer & team member at Connected Women.