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Laramie Movie Scope: Nyad

The story of an impossible feat

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 15, 2023 – Diana Nyad's epic 100 mile swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys is the subject of this movie, now streaming on Netflix, starring Annette Bening (“Death on the Nile”) as Nyad and Jodie Foster (“The Mauritanian”) as Nyad's friend and trainer, Bonnie Stoll. This movie is very effective in its realistic-looking depiction of the grueling nature of this feat. It is also effective as a character study of the sometimes stormy relationship between Nyad and Stoll.

Nyad's first attempt at the Cuba to Florida swim was in 1978 at age 28, but the movie opens with Nyad at age 60 once again planning to complete the same kind of Cuba to Florida swim she had attempted years earlier. She talks her friend Stoll into being her trainer for the swim, and begins training to once again build up her stamina.

During the training sequences and actual attempts at the swim, there are numerous flashbacks to Nyad's youth, including sexual abuse by a swimming coach when she was 14 years old. Nyad's troubled relationship with her father is also the subject of flashbacks. Nyad is very determined to make this crossing from Cuba to Florida. It is a lifelong dream. She has some reason for optimism because in 1979 she set a record by swimming from North Bimini Island, Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Florida, a distance of over 100 miles.

Most experts believe that Nyad's plan to swim the Cuba to Florida crossing is impossible due to difficult ocean currents, sharks, stinging jellyfish and other hazards. Nevertheless, she talks sponsors and others into the scheme, including Stoll, navigator John Bartlett (played by Rhys Ifans of “Snowden”) boat captain Dee Brady (Karly Rothenberg) biochemist Angel Yanagihara (Jeena Yi of “Lapsis”) shark expert Luke Tipple (Luke Cosgrove) and EMT Jon Rose (Garland Scott of “Bullet Train”). Most of these are unpaid jobs.

The movie details not one, but four attempts at the crossing, all of which were after her first attempt in 1978. Two of these attempts were cut short by unfavorable ocean currents or bad weather and jellyfish stings. Another attempt is cut short by deadly stings from a box jellyfish, which not only nearly kills Nyad, but EMT Jon Rose as well.

The stress from these near-death experiences is too much for Stoll, who quits the team after a particularly dangerous attempt to cross from Cuba to Florida. Bartlett also quits due to financial losses inflicted on his charter boat business due to his volunteer work for Nyad. Stoll is also having financial problems for the same reason.

But somehow, the crew rallies for one last attempt in 2013, when Nyad, now 64 years old, makes another attempt at the dangerous crossing. The makeup artists do a great job, along with Bening's acting, at making her look gaunt and haggard from the stress of the crossing. Special effects illustrate some of the hallucinations seen by the delirious Nyad, including an underwater Taj Mahal and meteors falling from the sky.

Nyad's crossing has never been officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, due to a lack of records and independent observers, but that really seems like nitpicking. There are some errors in the historical accuracy of the movie as well, but overall, it is a remarkable story of determination and a triumph of the human spirit against long odds. This well-acted movie rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]