The Power of Formula: Our Review of ‘NYAD’

Posted in Movies, Netflix, Theatrical, TIFF 2023, What's Streaming? by - October 19, 2023
The Power of Formula: Our Review of ‘NYAD’

Never give up on your dreams…

While following in the wake of some well-worn footsteps; NYAD is an exceptionally well executed inspirational tale that serves as a reminder that you’re “Never Too Old” to basically do anything and that Jodie Foster basically needs to work more.

A remarkable true story of tenacity, friendship and the triumph of the human spirit, NYAD recounts a riveting chapter in the life of world-class athlete Diana Nyad. Three decades after giving up marathon swimming in exchange for a prominent career as a sports journalist, at the age of 60, Diana (four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening) becomes obsessed with completing an epic swim that always eluded her: the 110 mile trek from Cuba to Florida; which is often referred to as the “Mount Everest” of swims. Determined to become the first person to finish the swim without a shark cage, Diana goes on a thrilling, four-year journey with her best friend and coach; Bonnie Stoll (two-time Academy Award winner Jodie Foster) and a dedicated sailing team.

We’ll be the first to admit that there’s really nothing in NYAD that reinvents the wheel.  However, this film that sees documentarians Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi make the jump to narrative storytelling by managing to blend elements of archival footage in the telling of an incredibly inspirational story.  Top it all off with some fine performances from two of the best actresses to ever step in front of the camera, you’ve got a darn good formula that’s hard to screw up.

Following a formula isn’t a bad thing as Chin and Vasarhelyi bring their excellent documentary skills to bear here by blending styles to make something that is visually engaging but also grounded in the events all at the same time.  The film looks fantastic and takes in the lush vistas and scenery of the Atlantic Ocean while never losing focus on its subjects.

Screenwriter Julia Cox who adapted the screenplay from the book by Diana Nyad called “Find A Way” does a solid job of giving us a clear arc and a message that Nyad herself has embodied over the years to never give up when following your dreams of excellence no matter what they may be.  It’s ironic because the script in all of its believable glory just might be paving the way for two excellent actresses in their 60’s to be placing themselves in the awards season conversation once more.

Annette Bening is in full on into force of nature mode as she captures the borderline insanity that is so common in athletes who compete at these high levels and she does a great job of showing how the competitive spirit will always live on no matter how old you are.  Jodie Foster is fantastic opposite her as coach and best friend, proving that everybody needs to have their own person.  She’s the ‘Yang’ to Bening’s ‘Yin’ and they both provide balance for the other without implying any unnecessary romantic or emotional complications.  Rhys Ifans also does great work as the rough around the edges ocean navigator who didn’t know he needed one “last adventure” before he met the enigmatic and NEVER boring Diana Nyad.

NYAD hits all the sports movie beats you’d expect and works as an inspirational tale for all demographics to tell us that we are not defined by the moments that happened to us in life, but rather by the ones that we make happen.   In these difficult times, it’s a story that’s not all that difficult to get behind and that’s alright by us.

NYAD is in select theatres this Friday and streaming everywhere on Netflix on Nov. 3rd.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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