A fine line between heroics and insanity crawls throughout the movie Nyad when a phenomenal athlete challenges the ocean for a 110 mile swim from Cuba to Florida. For what purpose? And though the swimmer calls it her moment of immortality, does success make any significant difference in a world loaded with problems? Directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi explain the why, shuffling the event’s importance into the realm of inspiration, following the real-life Diana Nyad’s motivational speeches that say quote, “Never give up.” The directors relate to their subject, having won an Oscar for their documentary about cliff climbing in Free Solo. They know how to work in difficult circumstances fighting weather and irritable natural forces, in this case the unceasing movement and chill of the ocean. The duo also continue their experience communicating the obsessive, self-absorbed qualities athletes require for extreme challenges. Turning from documentary and recreating events in a feature film format using performers, the directors realize the value of high tech equipment—they hire Annette Bening and Jodie Foster in the story’s top two roles. Both women regularly give their all to any part they play, and neither worries about failing to appear glamorous or appealing. Bening in particular proves fearless in exuding an often obtuse stubbornness and narcissism that led the real-life Nyad to repeatedly go against advice and nature. Spending hours in water, wet face covered in welts, Bening sheds all the glitter that helped her win Warren Beatty in the movie Bugsy. Foster, able to mostly stay dry, seems to have lived her life as Nyad’s best friend Bonnie, a woman who helps others understand her buddy’s oddities. Their onscreen charisma and bonding stand out in a story full of more than enough suspense and--if not inspiration--than insight and enlightenment.
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