When you hit a certain age – 40 appears to be a popular number – many tend to look back and ponder on the life choices they’ve made. When those moments come, it is easy to console yourself by saying “age is just a number”.
Then, before you know it, you’re turning 60. For many, it’s the perfect time to start enjoying a slower pace of life as you ease into your golden years.
But one woman, despite hitting the big 6-0, decided to attempt a seemingly impossible feat: to swim from Cuba to Florida, a harrowing journey spanning over 160km in the open sea.
Her name is Diana Nyad, a long-distance swimmer and author, whose epic adventure is the subject of the Netflix biopic “NYAD”.
Annette Bening plays the title character who decides to finally conquer the attempt at which she had previously failed when she was 28.
Naturally, her longtime friend Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster) thinks she is insane for wanting to try this at her age. Nevertheless, this does not stop Nyad – who is both passionate and persuasive, always a dangerous combination – from enlisting Stoll as her coach.
Like all true friends, Stoll eventually agrees to join her and, together, they embark on an adventure upon the open sea.
Directed by award-winning filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, the film also stars Rhys Ifans as John Bartlett, a member of Nyad’s crew.
He delivers a delightful performance as the no-nonsense but endearing navigator, who, despite being hesitant at first, eventually gets on board, literally and figuratively.
Unsurprisingly, given Nyad’s mission, most of the action takes place in the endless, vast ocean. While this may be a bit slow-paced for some, there are several gripping moments such as when she gets stung by jellyfish or has a close call with a shark!
And despite the lack of action-packed scenes to keep one’s adrenaline running, Bening and Foster shine. Truly, it is their gripping performances and the chemistry they share that drive this biopic and makes this a heartwarming watch.
After all, this is more than just the story about an athlete achieving a remarkable feat: it’s also about the close bond two women can share.
While Nyad is all fire and passion, it is the even-tempered and practical Stoll who grounds her and steadfastly cheers her on when the going gets rough. It may well leave you hoping for such a friend, or thankful for them if you already have one.
It is also a breath of fresh air to see Bening and Foster without perfectly applied make-up and gorgeously styled hair.
Wrinkles and grey hair are gloriously on display here – not to mention Bening’s sunburnt face and swollen lips – so much so that one can’t help but wonder if the duo felt liberated by not having to appear picture-perfect. That being said, Foster still shows off a remarkably toned physique!
The movie also includes actual news footage from Nyad’s younger days. Although this makes her depiction more personal to viewers, the switch from Bening as Nyad to the actual Nyad may be disconcerting for some.
It’s probably no spoiler to reveal that Nyad finally reaches her destination after 50 hours in the sea, and one can’t help but be moved when she does it.
But really, her journey to the shore took much, much longer than that: Nyad persevered over three decades, putting up backbreaking battles against winds, currents, and hypothermia. Yet, she remained determined.
And this is what makes Nyad, the person, and “NYAD”, the film, inspiring: the courage to dream, the tenacity to remain committed to it, and the boldness of not allowing age to be a limitation.
So, perhaps, age IS just a number, after all.
‘NYAD’ is streaming on Netflix.