What motivates you to watch a movie whose heroine is neither a young beauty, nor one of the first-class stars who attract the audience in any work they perform, nor is the story romantic, social romantic, comedic, or even suspenseful horror? Behind the movie “Niad” there must be suspense of a different kind, with two different heroines and distinguished directors, and in the story there is something that makes you reserve a seat for yourself to watch the events for about two hours, without boredom or regret. “Niad” is a true story about an exceptional woman in her sixties, an American swimmer. A retiree decided to challenge herself, her age, and the world’s view of the “sixty” age stage, and to swim 177 kilometers non-stop, from Cuba to Florida… and a film whose success was written with the hands and efforts of its work team, which surpassed the story itself, and about Diana Nyad and her achievements.
Any element of a cinematic film that can excel and attract the attention of audiences and critics alike becomes the center of attention and the first attraction for this work, and prompts you to talk about it at the beginning, before you get into the details of the film. And when you talk about “Nyad,” the superiority of the two stars, Annette Bening and Jodie Foster, pulls the rug from under the true heroine, Diana Nyad, and from her strange and controversial story in the world of long-distance individual swimming. You feel that you were initially excited to know the story of the sixty-year-old woman’s challenge to the physical capabilities. At this age, and the adventure of crossing 110 miles at sea, you were captivated by Bening’s performance of the character, and with her Foster as Bonnie, Diana’s assistant and coach, and the remarkable direction of the couple, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, who are known for directing short documentaries about extraordinary athletes, and they have won an Oscar. About their amazing 2018 film “Free Solo,” about the story of free climber Alex Honnold, especially since “Niad” is their first feature film.
Diana Nyad, 28 years old, is an American swimmer who participates in one marathon after another. From here, the film begins its events, explaining the meaning of the word Nyad in Greek, “mermaid.” This is an explanation that Diana cherishes, repeats, and constantly repeats to the ears of everyone she meets for the first time, and even reminds of it. Her acquaintances… real archival scenes that the two directors show of Naiad’s tours, from Capri to Naples, Manhattan, from the Bahamas to Florida, from Cuba to Havana… but her life’s dream was, and still is, to swim from Cuba to Florida, that is, to swim for about 60 hours, without… Get out of the water, even to eat a meal or rest.
We move on to see today Diana (Annette Bening), who is sixty years old, asking her friend closest to her heart – a friendship that has lasted more than 30 years and Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster) is still the best friend and true support – not to celebrate her birthday this year, as she has become… At sixty, and the world decides that anyone who reaches this age is no longer good for anything, all he has to do is wait… But Bonnie prepares a surprise for her friend and brings all their acquaintances to celebrate Diana, which brings happiness to her heart, and after the party she discusses with Bonnie the many questions she has, Most notably: What does a person do in his life?
According to the story that Diana herself wrote in a book, and redrafted cinematically by Julia Cox, she retired from swimming 30 years ago, during which she became a presenter for the program “The Wide World of Sports,” on ABC, and a lecturer with a great ability to attract people’s attention with her speech. Influencing them and guiding them, but we did not understand why she stopped swimming completely, for 30 years? Why did she no longer practice it, not even in the swimming pool? Then suddenly she decided to challenge herself and the world, so she carried her equipment and headed to the pool, recalling her movements in the water, with snippets of her childhood memories?
Memories of the past
The two directors make filming underwater while Diana swims throughout the film an occasion to recall memories of the past, and narrate important parts and stages of her life, since she started swimming, and her father’s encouragement of her, and what he said about the sparkling stars in the sky, and that “there in the distance is the sea and Cuba.” .. Cuba, which she considered the most beautiful dream in her life, began when she was 9 years old and living in Fort Lauderdale during the Cuban Revolution, and the influx of Cubans fleeing to the United States, so she asked her mother why she was unable to see Cuba from the beaches of Florida? Her mother told her that Cuba was over there on the horizon, so the child thought that swimming would enable her, one day, to cross that distance. Nyad says: “Deep down, that was the most important swim for me.” But what is surprising is that the sixty-year-old woman awakens that desire again after celebrating her sixtieth year, and decides to challenge the world that is convinced that those who reach this age become useless and incapable of swimming. The challenge, and Diana is one of the people who is very confident in her abilities, stubborn to the point of selfishness, pushy, and determined to implement her decisions regardless of any price or any consequences, and the evidence is her insistence on swimming from Cuba to Florida, so she convinced Bonnie of the matter, and she tried in vain to get a sponsor for this trip. .
The first trip she made at the age of 61 failed, and she continued her attempts without despair, despite all the difficulties and health problems she faced, swelling in her face and eyes, jellyfish stings that burned her and almost killed her, hallucinations caused by a long stay in the water, and focusing on… Swimming only, not being able to eat solid food, so she was content with a few liquids, enduring the cold water…to achieve her dream on the fifth attempt at the age of 64, by reaching Florida (177 kilometers).
The most difficult thing about this challenge is that Nyad refused to use her hedge nets to prevent the shark from reaching her, especially since she is crossing an area known for its abundance of these fish, as well as poisonous jellyfish, and thanks to the work team that Bonnie formed to accompany them on this journey, including the two kayakers and the paramedics. She, the sailors, and the trainer (forty people accompanied her, but the film restricted them to a small team of no more than seven people), were able to complete the mission, as the two kayakers used a substance that they released into the water when they saw a shark approaching them, causing it to flee immediately, given her refusal to use nets in order to achieve an unimaginable achievement. It is unprecedented in the world of long-distance swimming, and red phosphorescent lighting helps her see in the dark, and a swimming costume and mask designed specifically for her to protect her from jellyfish in certain areas. One of the conditions for this type of competition is that the swimmer must serve herself, so she wore this costume alone, and took it off alone, and it is forbidden. For any of her work team to touch her, so as not to violate the rules and be eliminated from the competition; Add to all of this the precise calculations of the weather and wind directions, and how to swim according to the direction of the current in order to gain time and reduce effort, which was undertaken by the sailor John Bartlett (brilliantly played by Rhys Evans), who died a few months after Diana’s success in the mission, and he pointed out in the film that His illness.
A star who doesn’t care about appearance
Bening seemed fierce with her voice, movements, features, anger, and looks… without makeup, and in fact she appeared most of the time unkempt, so she assured the audience that she is a star who does not care about appearance, but rather puts all her strength into her performance to give her best, and she deserves an Oscar for her role.. As for Jodie Foster, she is also wonderful, and as usual, spontaneous in everything she embodies, she played the role of Diana’s assistant, and actually gave us the feeling that she was here to support her colleague Bening, not to outshine her… a more than excellent duo, which formed the main nerve of the film; The direction excels in filming underwater, maintaining suspense throughout the film, and giving the work an elegance that elevates its status.