‘Young Woman And The Sea’ Review: Daisy Ridley Inspires As First Woman To Swim English Channel In Disney’s Splendid Biopic (2024)

There was a time when Disney made ideal family movies that weren’t animated, or live action reboots of animated films. In fact, there was a time when Walt Disney would take on original live action true stories designed for the whole family to enjoy.

Now, thanks to the efforts of director Joachim Ronning and mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer‘s clout and dedication, the studio has an echo of its past with Young Woman And The Sea, the true biopic and inspiring saga of Trudy Ederle.

In 1926, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel from France to England. Ederle’s remarkable achievement has nearly been forgotten and overlooked in the 100 years since it happened. But thanks to Glenn Stout’s 2009 book, Young Woman And The Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered The English Channel And Inspired The World, and A-List screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (Catch Me If You Can, Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Lion King) who discovered the book while rummaging through a bookstore one day and was convinced it would be a great film, the movie’s long journey to the screen is a successful one.

It still took years even for Bruckheimer to convince Disney to make it, and it is getting only a limited theatrical release before streaming. But hopefully, the inevitable word of mouth for this crowd-pleaser will make it more than limited. This is a big screen film that deserves to be seen with an audience, and not lost in the streaming larder. It also proves that they do make ’em like they used to, at least occasionally.

‘Young Woman And The Sea’ Review: Daisy Ridley Inspires As First Woman To Swim English Channel In Disney’s Splendid Biopic (3)

Basically following the linear story of Trudy (Olive Abercrombie plays the young Trudy), we see her early family life, and then her desire to make a difference for girls. The place she could do that was in the pool, an effort supported by her mother (Jeanette Hain), who knew from a previous ocean tragedy that learning to swim was important for her kids. That not only went for Trudy (Daisy Ridley), but also her older sister Meg (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), who would go on to become her sister’s biggest supporter, even on the boat that accompanied Trudy as she took on the English Channel.

Before that happened in 1926, Trudy would triumph and win a gold medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics. But taking on this task thought only possible for the male-dominated society of the time was something she became determined to do. It is no spoiler to say that indeed, on her second try, she did it even when it appeared she might be dead towards the end of the journey when she got lost in the darkness and separated from those keeping track of her. And in so doing this unheard-of feat, Trudy, who was partially deaf due to a childhood illness, beat previous male records by nearly two hours at 14 hours and 31 minutes (it held for 35 years), and this New York native got the largest victory parade ever in the history of the city. Ever.

But the crux of the story is seeing the perseverance it took to achieve this milestone, a belief that you never give up. Ridley simply embodies that spirit of this young woman (who eventually went deaf and died in 2003 at age 98) and delivers a memorable performance, including complete authenticity in her quest. Cobham-Hervey is excellent as well, and the parents are nicely played by Kim Bodnia as Henry, a dedicated German-born butcher and father who feared for his daughter, but then became a #1 fan, and especially by Hain, superb as the wise and determined mother, Gertrude, with a mind of her own and the will to do what is best for her family.

Stephen Graham is excellent and a lot of fun as the most unlikely of coaches, a man who, in 1911, became the second person to swim the Channel, and now is key to helping Trudy make history.

As you might expect with a Bruckheimer production, it looks magnificent, with excellent cinematography both above and below the waves (Oscar Faura was the DP), production design from Nora Takacs Ekberg, and a sweeping score by Amelia Warner. Pulling all this off with so many water scenes could not have been easy, but Ronning, well-versed in water from Kon-Tiki and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (which he did for Bruckheimer) was clearly the right choice for the job. It looks sensational.

Producers are Bruckheimer, Nathanson, and Chad Oman.

Title: Young Woman And The Sea

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios

Release Date: May 31, 2024

Director: Joachim Ronning

Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Stephen Graham, Kim Bodnia, Jeanette Hain, Christopher Eccleston, Glenn Fleshler, Sian Clifford, Olive Abercrombie

Rating: PG

Running Time: 2 Hours and 9 Minutes

‘Young Woman And The Sea’ Review: Daisy Ridley Inspires As First Woman To Swim English Channel In Disney’s Splendid Biopic (2024)
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