Young Woman and the Sea review: "Daisy Ridley pulls off this handsome biopic with style"

young woman and the sea
(Image: © Walt Disney Studios)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Daisy Ridley pulls it off with style in this wholesome but enjoyable old-school Channel-swim biopic.

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Cinema’s recent roster of female long-distance swimming stories, like the doughty Nyad and Vindication Swim, gets a medal-worthy new entrant in this heartwarming and handsomely produced biopic of Trudy Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926.

Very much a ‘girls can do anything!’ movie, it plunges slight and sickly New Yorker Trudy (a determined Daisy Ridley) into conflict with her stern German immigrant father (the nicely gruff Kim Bodnia) as she pursues forbidden swimming lessons and enters ‘indecent’ trial competitions. Soon, she’s neck-deep in local records and trophies. 

Director Joachim Rønning, veteran of family-friendly fare like Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017) and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019), gives the broad-strokes script a glossy, period-perfect New Yawk setting, full of post-WWI patriarchal attitudes that Trudy fights as tenaciously as the waves.

Engagingly, Ridley brings the winning combo of pluck and vulnerability of Star Wars’s Rey to Trudy, struggling with the family pressure to be a married shop-girl rather than a life-risking Channel swimmer. It’s all a tad Disneyfied (no Nyad rage here), yet the film finds fun in Trudy’s wild bet that she can swim from NY to New Jersey, and in her persistent defiance of US Olympic blowhards and devious, women-hating Channel-swim coach Wolffe (a tooth-grindingly villainous Christopher Eccleston).

It all adds up to a genuinely affecting, Seabiscuit-style underdog tale, which will get you cheering dogged Trudy past 10ft waves, a shoal of stinging jellyfish, and a plague of obstructive men. That salty liquid on your face isn’t sea water – it’s tears.

Young Woman and the Sea releases in select theaters May 31 across the US and UK.

For what else is out this year, here's our guides to all the upcoming movies and 2024 movie release dates to add to your planner.

Freelance Writer

Kate is a freelance film journalist and critic. Her bylines have appeared online and in print for GamesRadar, Total Film, the BFI, Sight & Sounds, and