Jodie Foster’s ‘Nyad’ Performance Makes a Big Splash

The Big Picture

  • Jodie Foster’s performance as Bonnie in Nyad is outstanding, making an indelible impact on the Netflix movie.
  • Foster’s ability to balance the outspoken and softer sides of Bonnie adds depth to the character and the film.
  • Foster’s portrayal of Bonnie brings honesty and a genuine connection to the audience, elevating the coach-athlete friendship in Nyad.

When Oscar-winner Jodie Foster is in a movie or TV show, the project is automatically elevated. Having been acting since she was just three years old, Foster has played an incomprehensibly wide array of different characters, including her iconic roles as Iris in Taxi Driver and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Unsurprisingly, Foster delivers another impressive performance in Nyad, the Netflix biopic about the famous long-distance swimmer. Here she doesn’t play the titular role, but that of Bonnie Stoll, Diana Nyad‘s (Annette Bening) best friend and biggest supporter.

It’s not that we didn’t expect an outstanding performance out of Foster, but it’s the way in which her more unassuming character has such an indelible impact on the film that one might not expect. In Nyad, Foster is taking on more of an outlier type of role. Bonnie is the steady metronome of the movie, with her supreme ability to listen — and really listen — as an actor is what makes the character such a quiet force to be reckoned with throughout the movie.


Nyad tells the remarkable true story of athlete Diana Nyad who, at the age of 60 and with the help of her best friend and coach, commits to achieving her life-long dream: a 110-mile open ocean swim from Cuba to Florida.

Release Date
November 3, 2023
Jimmy Chin , Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
121 minutes
Main Genre
Drama , Biography , sport
Production Company
Black Bear Pictures, Mad Chance, SPG3 Entertainment

Jodie Foster Provides Comfort in ‘Nyad’

Right off the bat in Nyad, Bonnie feels like home plate for Diana, the safety net everyone needs. She spends quite a bit of the film reality-checking her slightly self-aggrandizing best friend, Diana, who enjoys telling tales of her past to just about anyone she’s able to lock into a conversation. Bonnie reminds Diana to ask questions instead of making speeches, and while that might usually go right into her friend’s ear and out the other, it’s a quick way to establish just how dedicated Bonnie is to Diana.

It’s that instant familiarity of Bonnie that puts the film at ease, and between all the ups and downs of Diana’s swimming journey throughout Nyad, that feeling of ease is necessary to level things out. Whether it’s found within ourselves or someone else, most of us have encountered a Bonnie or two in our lives. Foster draws upon that person — the friend who’s your ride-or-die but won’t let you get away with any BS — to make Bonnie an instantly comforting character.

‘Nyad’ Showcases Jodie Foster’s Mastery of Balance

Bonnie might be a more laid-back person than Diana, but Foster has to maintain a real balancing act in order to make sure that the outspoken side of Bonnie comes through just as strongly as the softer one. The two characters are polar opposites, making it that much more essential for Foster to bridge the gap between the two friends. Here’s the thing: Bonnies don’t come around very often. The most striking moment in Nyad isn’t even found in the swim itself. Instead, it’s in a particularly tense moment between Bonnie and Diana after another failed swim attempt from Cuba to Florida. In short, Foster draws up a rage that can only be created out of love.


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“This isn’t about you or your destiny,” Bonnie yells to Diana. “This is about me, okay? For once, this is about me! And you don’t… you don’t even think of me. You just want me to, like, tag along with you.” After Diana finally asks Bonnie if she’ll keep on coaching her, Bonnie simply says “no.” In Foster’s delivery of that one word, both Diana and the entire film are grounded at once. It becomes instantly clear that this is more than just a swim for both characters. Everything is at stake, not just the pursuit of a lifelong dream.

Without Foster’s ability to see right into Bening’s Diana, Nyad simply wouldn’t have been the same film. Foster knows the right moments to jump in and speak up, though the times when she stands back and listens are just as powerful. Bonnie is on the boat’s dock for the majority of the film, but she may as well have been in the water with Diana for the entire time. Foster is laser-focused, making sure that Bonnie comes off as being almost cosmically tuned into Diana’s innermost thoughts and needs with each movement she makes. In doing so, Foster brings the heat in the most understated of ways, uplifting Nyad as a whole in both the quiet and louder moments of the film.

Jodie Foster Brings an Honesty to ‘Nyad’s Bonnie

Jodie Foster and Annette Bening in 'Nyad'
Image via Netflix

Bonnie is exposed to the audience. Jodie Foster’s performance emits an honesty that can’t be replicated by anyone else but her. Sometimes in films, it takes a while to feel connected to a character because their walls steadily come down over time, and it isn’t until the end of the movie that you feel connected. In Nyad, Foster does the opposite. By keeping her walls down from the beginning, it enables the audience to feel an immediate connection to her.

The coach-athlete relationship is a complicated one, and it is certainly amped up when a decades-long friendship is thrown into the mix. It’s a constant push-and-pull between both people, which makes an open line of communication and overall dedication to honesty absolutely imperative for success. Foster is open and honest in her portrayal of Bonnie, strengthening not only the film at large, but also the believability of the longstanding bond between Bonnie and Diana within the movie.

Nyad might technically be a film about the true story of a record-setting swim, but equally so, the movie serves as a showcase for a genuine friendship, warts and all. The idea for the physical carrying out of the swim is all Diana, but Bonnie keeps the entire operation from veering off course. In the grand scheme of things, it’s the ultimate test of friendship, and Jodie Foster maintains that there’s more than just one point to the movie in her portrayal of Bonnie.

Nyad is available to watch on Netflix in the U.S.

Watch on Netflix


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