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"Nyad": A Movie Review


Blurb:  The remarkable true story of athlete Diana Nyad who, at the age of 60 and with the help of her best friend and coach, commits to achieving her life-long dream: a 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida.


Annette Bening

Jodie Foster

Anne Marie Kempf

Directed by:  

Jimmy Chin

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Written by: 

Julia Cox

Diana Nyad


Another Oscar Nominated film with powerful performances by Annette Bening and Jodie Foster as Diana Nyad, who attempted to swim from Cuba to Key West, FL, and her coach Bonnie Stoll.

This film had me on the edge of my seat and heart pounding, despite the fact it could have been a very boring film. I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next as I have never paid any attention to sports. More than anything, this is a character-driven story and I really enjoyed it. I must assume that the reason Diana Nyad was involved--she even helped write it--was because through several circumstances, not hinted at in the movie, it ends before then--because her crossing from Cuba to Florida was denied ratification due to incomplete documentation, conflicting crew reports and rules from an organization that did not exist at the time of the swim. Guinness World Records revoked Nyad's achievement. Which is pretty crappy. This movie was Nyad's opportunity to tell her story, it's up to you to decide whether it is true or not.

I didn't know enough not to know that the swim took her more than one attempt, and when only halfway through the movie, they have to pull her from the water due to encountering strong currents and winds that pushed her miles off course, shoulder pain, and a flare-up of her asthma.*

This is very much a movie to watch to be completely amazed by the acting. I think these could be the roles of Annette Bening and Jodie Foster lives. I mean, how do you forget you're watch Annette Bening and Jodie Foster? I did. Constantly. I was also completely drawn to the relationship between their "characters." The friendship is a powerful one and it was a constant joy to watch.

I highly recommend this movie!

And as a gay man, it not-so-secretly pleases me that out of the twenty actor and actress nominees, three of the roles are gay or lesbian characters, Annette Bening has a transgender son, Jodie Foster is a lesbian, and Colman Domingo is gay. This gives me hope. Plus, Lily Gladstone, a queer Native American actress, received a nomination for Best Actress for her performance in Killers of the Flower Moon.



Warning: The following is a complete synopsis of the movie. It's nothing but spoilers. Read at your own risk!

In 2010, sixty-year-old Diana Nyad resolves to accomplish the one thing that has eluded her—a 110-mile nonstop swim from Cuba to Florida, which she had unsuccessfully attempted thirty years prior. She appoints her best friend and former partner, Bonnie Stoll, to train her. Despite public skepticism because of her age, Diana relocates to Key West with Bonnie for her training and hires navigator John Bartlett to accompany her on her swim. In lieu of a shark cage, Diana opts to swim with a Shark Shield, a shark repellant electronic device.


In August 2011, Diana makes her first attempt at swimming the Florida Straits since 1978. However, unfavorable ocean currents pushing her off course force her to quit early. On her second attempt a month later, she gets stung by box jellyfish. The lead medic jumps in to save her, but he is also ensnared by the jellyfish and has to be rescued. A shot is administered to Diana for the venom, but she insists on continuing to swim with her injury. After some initial resistance, Bonnie and John oblige her, but Diana gets stung again and briefly loses consciousness. She is resuscitated on the boat.


Diana recovers in a hospital, where Bonnie expresses her worry to Diana about the severity of the dangers and warns her she is letting her personal dream overtake the safety of the boat crew. Diana pleads for another try and consults with a box jellyfish expert, who gives her a specially designed protective suit. Diana’s swims and training are interspersed with flashbacks that show her upbringing and her sexual abuse at the hands of her childhood swimming coach, Jack Nelson.


In August 2012, Diana makes another attempt, despite warnings from John about bad weather conditions. A thunderstorm breaks out during Diana’s swim and John’s boat starts to flood. Bonnie calls for Diana to abort the mission despite Diana’s pleas to keep going. Back on land, Diana refuses to admit defeat and plans for another try, prompting a fight between her and Bonnie. Bonnie calls out Diana’s self-centeredness and laments how she has put aside her own dreams just to support Diana, before quitting as trainer.


Sometime later, Diana calls John and apologizes for her behavior. John accepts the apology but admits he can’t do another run because of more pressing concerns, including financial stability. Diana visits Bonnie and the two reconcile. Bonnie informs Diana that Nelson passed away, and the news compels Diana to reflect on her trauma. Bonnie later decides to train Diana again after realizing the closeness of their bond. John also returns as navigator; he discloses to Bonnie that he is in ill health and wants one last opportunity to see what Diana can do.


Diana begins her fifth attempt on August 31, 2013; this time she is helped by more favorable currents. Danger arises when a shark approaches and the Shark Shield is not properly functioning. Assistants from the boat’s crew jump in the water in time to ward off the shark, which swims away. Hours later, Diana’s body is showing signs of exhaustion. She has hallucinatory visions of the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard of Oz and the Taj Mahal. To help motivate her, Bonnie jumps into the water and implores Diana to give it one last push. When the coastline of Key West is in sight, the crew excitedly informs Diana that they are getting closer.


On September 2, Diana makes it to the shore of Key West, where hordes of spectators and fans are gathered to watch. She emerges from the water and gradually ascends onto the beach, prompting celebrations from the crowd. Asked by the press to speak, Diana says she wants to say three things: “One, never, ever give up. Two, you’re never too old to chase your dreams. And three, it may look like a solitary sport…but it takes a team.” **

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