Two Wonderful Performances Buoy Inspiring “Nyad” Sports Drama

Epic odysseys featuring protagonists traversing earth’s vast waters can add another legend to maritime mythology as Annette Bening assumes the titular role of Diana the sixtysomething marathon swimmer in Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s Nyad (B+). Bening is a fascinating force of nature in the role of a real-life iconoclast who harbors the dream of completing an aquatic journey from Cuba to Florida despite the incredible odds of advanced age, scant resources, wily weather and unpredictable wildlife. Jodie Foster gives a wonderful performance as Bonnie, her longtime companion and coach, a warm hug of a character opposite the acerbic braggadocio of the natator. Rhys Ifans is also wonderful as the crusty, trusty boat captain who helps the ladies keep course; he’s a marvelous grounded foil to the dogged dreamers. The film logs quite a few nautical miles showcasing futile attempts at conquering the perils of the sea; and although often riveting and gorgeously filmed, the submerged sequences are not as entertaining as the story strands depicting the central women intertwined in their own strangely codependent relationship dynamics. The highest highs and lowest lows of Nyad’s Quixotic endurance test are secondary to the power of the two superb actresses supporting and sparring with one another. This sports drama is a singular showcase of steely women with resolve; it projects power and pride. There are quibbles with how some of the flashback are handled, but mostly the filmmakers triumph with an entertaining you-are-their vibe. Audiences will be spellbound to float with this G.O.A.T.

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