Joachim Rønning’s “Young Woman and the Sea” revives the glory of classical Hollywood storytelling while celebrating feminine perseverance and sisterhood. Featuring a stunning performance by Daisy Ridley, this biopic tells the inspiring story of Trudy Ederle, the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926.

Young Woman and the Sea Review: Daisy Ridley Shines in Inspiring Biopic

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Trudy Ederle, born to German immigrant parents in Coney Island in 1905, faced several obstacles from a young age.

A bout of measles left her partially deaf and societal expectations restricted her from participating in activities deemed inappropriate for respectable girls. Trudy’s early passion for swimming was stifled by these societal norms and her family’s modest means.

Her mother, Gertrude (played by Jeanette Hain), was a hardworking and headstrong woman who encouraged Trudy to pursue her dreams.

Her father, Henry (Kim Bodnia), initially resistant, eventually became a supportive figure. Trudy’s sister Margaret (played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey) shared her love for swimming and their bond played a crucial role in Trudy’s journey.

Trudy’s determination led her to sing persistently to her father pushing him to let her swim despite the risks involved.

Her mother’s negotiation with a stern coach, Charlotte Epstein (Sian Clifford), allowed Trudy to practice swimming after hours in exchange for feeding the boiler by the indoor pool.

Trudy’s perseverance paid off as she surpassed her peers and began to make a name for herself in the swimming community.

Trudy’s journey included competing in the Paris Olympics and facing setbacks due to gender biases. Toxic men in the sporting world tried to undermine her efforts.

The film benefits from the production design by Nora Takacs Ekberg and convincing period costumes by Gabriele Binder.

Úna Ní Dhonghaíle’s precise editing and Oscar Faura’s crystal-clear cinematography bring the action sequences to life especially during Trudy’s swim across the English Channel.

Young Woman and the Sea’s climax depicting Trudy’s swim through dangerous waters in the dark, is a testament to Rønning’s skill in creating suspense and emotional impact.

Young Woman and the Sea draws parallels to iconic moments in cinematic history such as the triumphant return in “Apollo 13.”

“Young Woman and the Sea” harkens back to an era of Hollywood where original films regularly moved audiences yet it resonates deeply with contemporary theme of gender equality.

Ridley’s portrayal of Trudy is both graceful and commanding,. She brings depth and authenticity to the role.

Jeanette Hain as Gertrude Ederle, Kim Bodnia as Henry Ederle, and Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Margaret Ederle deliver memorable performances that enrich the film’s narrative. Stephen Graham as Bill Burgess, Trudy’s coach during her Channel swim provides comic relief and inspiration.

The film depicts the gender biases and societal expectations that Trudy faced, making her achievements all the more remarkable.

From remarks to scandalized headlines about women’s swimsuits, Trudy’s journey is a fight against more than just the physical challenges of the Channel.

The biopic faced a long journey to the screen including delays, recasting, and a change in distribution plans.

Initially delayed for five years at Paramount, it was recast, sold to Disney and eventually moved from streaming to theatrical release after positive test screenings.

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Trudy Ederle’s achievement in 1926 has almost faded from public memory. Ederle, at 19, became the first woman to swim the English Channel, previously accomplished by only five men.

Her journey spanned from Cape Gris-Nez in France to Kingsdown Beach in England, a 21-mile trek through frigid waters, tides, currents, and jellyfish swarms.

On that day, Ederle swam 35 miles surpassing the times of her male predecessors by nearly two hours, finishing in 14 hours and 31 minutes.

Her record held for 35 years and she was celebrated with the largest victory parade in New York City’s history.

The film is based on Glenn Stout’s 2009 book, “Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World.”

Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson known for “Catch Me If You Can” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” discovered the book by chance and saw its potential as a film.

It took years to convince Disney to greenlight the project. “Young Woman and the Sea” is now receiving a limited theatrical release before heading to streaming.

The film follows a linear narrative of Trudy Ederle’s life, starting with her childhood in New York. Olive Abercrombie portrays the young Trudy, whose early swimming lessons were encouraged by her mother, Gertrude (Jeanette Hain), after a ocean accident addressed the importance of swimming skills.

Before her Channel swim, Ederle had already made a name for herself winning a gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Young Woman and the Sea highlights her struggle against societal expectations and sexism. Her sister Meg and her coach, played by Stephen Graham are depicted as supporters in her journey.

The film’s production values are high with stunning cinematography by Oscar Faura and underwater scenes that bring Ederle’s swim to life.

The production design by Nora Takacs Ekberg and a sweeping score by Amelia Warner add to the film’s nostalgic charm.

Joachim Ronning, known for “Kon-Tiki” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” brings his experience with water-centric narratives to this biopic.

Critics have praised Ridley’s performance and her ability to embody Ederle’s tenacity and resilience. The film has been described as a crowd-pleaser that evokes the spirit of classic Disney live-action films.

It’s seen as a family-friendly movie particularly empowering for young girls despite some liberties taken with historical accuracy.

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