Young Woman and the Sea (2024) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Young Woman and the Sea ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The story of competitive swimmer Trudy Ederle, who, in 1926, was the first woman to ever swim across the English Channel. On at Chiswick Cinema now.

I stumbled into a special preview of this, completely blind, attracted mostly by the fact that the screening was going to be followed by a massive Q&A with all sorts of people: the producer, the writer, the director, the whole cast, but mostly Daisy Ridley and the legendary Jerry Bruckheimer (the man behind Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop and a whole series of massive blockbusters).

As always, watching films without knowing much about them has its perks, and I would advise people to go into this knowing as little as you possibly can (even the trailer, which I’ve only just watched, actually shows you most of the best bits… as trailers do. So be careful!).

This is based on a true story, mysteriously lost in the mists of time, though it transpired from the above-mentioned Q&A that hardly anyone involved in the production was aware of it either. There’s a huge pleasure in watching some of the real footage that inspired the story playing over the end credits.

Daisy Ridley (from the latest Star Wars fame) here plays Gertrude Ederle, the daughter of immigrant parents in New York City who, in the 1920s, against all odds, managed to climb up the ranks of the Olympic swimming team at a time when women were hardly competing in sports at all. She will eventually set off to try to cross the 21-mile long Channel from France to England.

Even as I am writing this now, I realize how predictable and by-the-book the plot sounds. And believe me, it really is pretty basic. Just like its cliché-ridden dialogue, mostly written to appeal to the broadest crowd available, without a single hint of subtlety or cleverness to it.

However, not everything has to be Shakespeare, and certainly, not every film needs to be Citizen Kane. Sometimes one just wants to be entertained, moved, and stirred without too much brain-power… and this is really the perfect film for that.

Beyond its simplicity and predictability, what the film does so well is to draw you in emotionally, pulling all the right heartstrings at the right times. So even if you don’t really care or don’t know much about swimming (and I certainly don’t), by the time the nail-biting and emotional finale comes along, you will be completely swept away. You’ll be standing on the edge of your seat, with tears in your eyes, cheering along at the screen, like me and the whole audience I saw this with.

We were all enthralled and could hardly contain our emotional applause by the time the credits rolled (in fact, there were three rounds of applause for this one).

The film moves along at a brisk pace, is always entertaining, funny, well-made, looks good, and is peppered with some truly delightful performances, especially from the supporting characters.

If there is a crowd-pleaser this month, Young Woman and the Sea (what a terribly uninspired title, by the way… is it try to rip off Hemingway?) this must be the one!

Young Woman and the Sea is on in cinemas now.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival 2023

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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