Review by Adam Donato
NYAD tells the true story of a sixty-year-old woman determined to accomplish her lifelong dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida. Such meaty subject material was able to catch the attention of A-listers like Jodie Foster, Annette Bening, and Rhys Ifans. This story of man versus the elements is tackled by the directing duo behind Free Solo, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. As awards season inches closer, NYAD will certainly try to push their female leads into the conversation. Netflix has done a great job being a part of the dance the last few years, and they just might have another hitter in their lineup with this one.
Watching a Netflix movie in theaters is quite the treat — especially when it’s a movie that’s actually trying to be anything more than just content. NYAD is a story about relentlessness in the face of an insurmountable obstacle. For modern audiences, it's even a struggle to sit through an entire movie with all the distractions in the home and the power of the pause button.
Netflix releasing a crowd-pleaser that will almost never be seen with a crowd is counterintuitive to the point of the movie, like if Apple TV+ made a movie about sweatshops. Nevertheless, NYAD is effective as a powerful story about a woman refusing to quit. It’s sure to make anyone who watches it feel strong enough to accomplish their goals. It will be even more powerful for women, the elderly, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The message succeeds in rousing inspiration in its audience.
Bening and Foster are fantastic. They play long time friends (not lovers) who stick together in the face of adversity. Foster’s character coaches Bening’s character, and like a lot of sports movies, this relationship is the crux of the film. With great chemistry between the two of them, one would think they had been friends forever.
The end of the movie shows clips of what actually happened, and it’s amazing how close the cast looks to the subjects in real life, not to mention the makeup used on Bening’s character — especially after scenes where she had been swimming for days at a time. Seeing the negative effects on her physically is heart-wrenching, which makes it that much more inspiring that she powers through.
Ifans’s character plays the voice of reason on this team as he navigates them through these waters. It’s interesting to see what obstacles get in their way because it’s not as simple as swimming and not stopping. The team deals with extreme currents, weather, and wildlife. Seeing how the team adapts to these problems is what makes the multiple attempts hold focus.
Awards voters are suckers for real life stories that lift people up. How close does the actress look to the real thing? Does the story follow what actually happened? NYAD does an excellent job capturing not only the subjects of the story, but also the message of their accomplishment. Be sure to check this one out on Netflix if you want to feel invincible.
NYAD hits theaters on October 20 and streams on Netflix beginning November 3.