“Throughout our lives, friends enclose us, like pairs of parentheses. They shift our boundaries, crater our terrain. . . . Friendship asks and wants, hollows and fills, ages with us and we through it, cradles us, finally, like family. It is ecology and mystery and language, all three.”
— Beth Kephart in Into the Tangle of Friendship
Annette Benning stars in this narrative project as Diana Nyad, a heralded world-class marathon swimmer who for most of her career has yearned to swim the treacherous 110 mile stretch between Cuba and Florida. She first tried to do it when she was in her twenties but had to give up when strong swells pushed her off course. Three more attempts also ended in failure. Now at age 60, she decides that she will try again.
It’s not enough that she is physically fit and an excellent swimmer. She needs to assemble a team, including a navigator (Rhys Ifans) who can make sure she maintains the shortest course to Florida despite the Gulf Stream currents. Since she will not use a shark cage, some members of her team accompany her in kayaks with blue lights to scare off sharks. At one point, encountering very poisonous jellyfish, she has to add protective clothing. Then there are the skin blisters, swollen lips, hallucinations, and exhaustion during the 60-hour swim.
Diana is hard-working, determined, and stubborn; she refuses to believe that she is too old to accomplish her goal, and you wonder if this hubris is a fatal flaw or the only thing that keeps her going. All those things considered, the key to her success both in and out of the water is her coach and longtime friend Bonnie Stoll (Jodie Foster). Although cautious at times with Diana’s safety as a chief concern, Bonnie is willing to make sacrifices and convince others to do so too. Her friend’s dream becomes her own, and we find ourselves cheering for their remarkable bond.