Kim Bodnia as Henry Ederle and Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney's live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'.

(L to R) Kim Bodnia as Henry Ederle and Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney's live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo by Elena Nenkova. © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Opening in theaters on Friday, May 31st, ‘Young Woman and the Sea’ follows the impressive true story of Gertrude “Trudy” Ederle, who overcame enormous odds and struggles to become the first woman to swim the English channel.

Fitting firmly into the wannabe inspirational biopic mold, it has a fantastic story at its core, but sometimes falls into the traps of juicing an already solid tale with some serious tropes of the genre.

Related Article: Daisy Ridley and Tilda Cobham-Hervey Talk 'Young Woman and the Sea'

Does ‘Young Woman and the Sea’ Fight the Tide?

Daisy Ridley during production of 'Young Woman and the Sea'.

Daisy Ridley during production of 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo courtesy of Joachim Rønning. © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The story of Trudy Ederle, who overcame incredible challenges –– measles at a young age, which in the 1900s was much more of fatal issue –– and incredible sexism in society to achieve what many considered impossible.

Taken on face value, it’s not hard to see why producer Jerry Bruckheimer would leap on this one, and why Disney would consider it worth turning into a movie. Yet it’s such a good yarn, with the benefit of being true, that it doesn’t need the slightly syrupy treatment that writer Jeff Nathanson and director Joachim Rønning lavish on it, as if not trusting the cast to bring the worthiness of the story to life without gilding the lily.

Script and Direction

'Young Woman and the Sea' director Joachim Rønning.

'Young Woman and the Sea' director Joachim Rønning.

Nathanson isn’t exactly known for based real-life work (‘Catch Me if You Can’ excepted) –– he’s more been found in the territory of big-budget blockbusters including ‘Indiana Jones’ and Jon Favreau’s ‘The Lion King’ (not to mention many movies for which he’s been an uncredited script doctor). But here, he brings his sensibilities to the story of Ederle. Yet for all his experience, what Nathanson produces feels like a hundred other emotional, inspirational stories.

Admittedly, he and the whole team are guided by what happened to the real-life woman, but there are elements you can’t help but feel are invented. That said, the actual story is even more dramatic than the movie, a massive storm impacting Ederle at one point in a way this portrayal skips over (not to mention another woman who was going to be competing but had to drop out due to injury).

As for Rønning, he certainly seems more comfortable in the water sections than on dry land. Given his experience with the likes of ‘Kon-Tiki’ and his ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ entry, that’s certainly understandable. The sea-set scenes, particularly in the last third of the movie, are the stand-outs, and Ederle’s story certainly offers enough drama on that front –– between chilling tides and jellyfish, she definitely faced struggles.

The main issue that Rønning and his team don’t always let the story simply play out without feeling the need to jazz it up –– composer Amelia Warner’s score appears to borrow from the likes of ‘Titanic’ and often tips over into cliché in terms of its triumphalism.

Performances: Daisy Ridley as Gertrude "Trudy" Ederle

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'.

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2024 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Daisy Ridley has been looking for projects that will break her away from her ‘Star Wars’ days, and here she finds a compelling character to bring to life. Ederle was an impassioned, driven young woman (brought to life in her younger days by Olive Abercrombie), and Ridley certainly brings all the spirit the role requires.

Trudy’s life was never easy –– between measles, the grumpy disbelief of her father in her abilities or ambition and the baked-in misogyny of 1900s society towards women doing anything outside the usual home chores (and certainly when it comes to swimming) –– but thanks to Ridley, we always root for her.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Margaret Ederle

Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Meg Ederle in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo courtesy of Disney.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Meg Ederle in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2024 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The key relationship in Trudy’s life, and her biggest supporter, older sister Meg is a constant in keeping her going. As played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey, she’s a good match for Ridley’s energy, pushing as her sister does against the strictures of the time.

Jeanette Hain as Gertrud Ederle

Kim Bodnia as Henry Ederle, Jeanette Hain as Gertrud Ederle, Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney's live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'.

(L to R) Kim Bodnia as Henry Ederle, Jeanette Hain as Gertrud Ederle, Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney's live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo by Elena Nenkova. © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Another huge influence in Trudy’s life was her imperious mother, who encouraged her daughter from a young age and always stood up for her. Jeanette Hain is fantastic as Gertrude, who takes no nonsense from anyone in her pursuit of her family’s needs.

Christopher Eccleston Jabez Wolffe

Christopher Eccleston and Daisy Ridley during production of 'Young Woman and the Sea'.

(L to R) Christopher Eccleston and Daisy Ridley during production of 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo courtesy of Joachim Rønning. © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Christopher Eccleston has a smaller role as Wolffe, the rough, dismissive and frustrated swimmer who is assigned to Trudy, and sabotages her first attempt. The actor makes the eminently punchable man more understandable but doesn’t shave off his sharper edges.

Stephen Graham as Bill Burgess

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle and Stephen Graham as Bill Burgess in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'.

(L to R) Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle and Stephen Graham as Bill Burgess in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2024 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Stephen Graham brings typical charm to Burgess, the second man to swim the Channel, and a forthright supporter of Trudy. He makes an impact from the start, emerging naked from the ocean following an exhibition swim in New York and ends up becoming one of the more inspirational people in Trudy’s efforts.

Final Thoughts

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'.

Daisy Ridley as Trudy Ederle in Disney’s live-action 'Young Woman and the Sea'. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2024 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Despite belaboring its heroic point to a degree that the story itself doesn’t truly need, the new movie manages to overcome one of the biggest hurdles facing such a film –– the fact that the outcome is never truly in doubt. That’s partly helped by Trudy’s story being one that not many people really know.

It won’t change the game when it comes to true-life stories, but ‘Young Woman and the Sea’ has enough spirit to carry it across the finish line.

‘Young Woman and the Sea’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars.

Young Woman and the Sea

"Defy the odds."
77
PG2 hr 9 minJul 19th, 2024
Showtimes & Tickets

Daisy Ridley stars as the accomplished swimmer who was born to immigrant parents in New York City in 1905. Through the steadfast support of her older sister and... Read the Plot

What is the plot of ‘Young Woman and the Sea’?

‘Young Woman and the Sea’ tells the story of Gertrude Ederle (Daisy Ridley), an American swimming champion, who first won a gold medal at the 1924 Olympic Games. In 1926, Ederle became the first woman to swim 21 miles across the English Channel.

Who is in the cast of ‘Young Woman and the Sea’?

  • Daisy Ridley as Gertrude "Trudy" Ederle
  • Tilda Cobham-Hervey as Margaret "Meg" Ederle
  • Stephen Graham as Bill Burgess
  • Kim Bodnia as Henry Ederle
  • Christopher Eccleston as Jabez Wolffe
  • Glenn Fleshler as James Sullivan
  • Jeanette Hain as Gertrude Anna Ederle
  • Sian Clifford as Charlotte

'Young Woman and the Sea'.

'Young Woman and the Sea'. © 2024 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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