Young Woman and the Sea

Posted on May 30, 2024 at 3:34 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements, some language and partial nudity
Profanity: Some mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinks in a bar
Violence/ Scariness: Some danger and scary moments
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: May 31, 2024
Copyright 2024 Disney

In 1926, an American woman barely out of her teens not only became the first woman to swim across the legendarily treacherous English Channel that separates the UK and France; she also beat the world’s record for the swim by two hours. Two million people showed up at the parade celebrating her return to New York. “Young Woman and the Sea,” based on the book by Glenn Stout, Young Woman And The Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, Disney has produced a film that tells her story. It is old-fashioned in the best sense, a straightforward story of a woman of extraordinary spirit and ability overcoming obstacles to achieve her dream.

She seems an unlikely world champion when we first see her, a young girl with a bad case of the measles in the early 20th century. Her doctor believes she will not last the night. But she survives and thrives. She was born in 1905 and in those days it was unusual for a girl to participate in competitive sports, or indeed in any athletic activity. In particular, those like Trudy (as a child played by Olive Abercrombie), who had survived measles, were considered especially fragile. Her father (, a butcher who immigrated from German, has very traditional values and refuses to let his two daughters learn to swim. But their mother (a lovely performance by Jeanette Hain) has her own reasons for insisting.

But Trudy is relentless, and finds a way to annoy her father so thoroughly he gives up and agrees. Again, though, he protests when their mother wants them to join a swim team, and again he has to give in. The coach (Sian Clifford as Lottie Epstein) accepts Trudy’s sister, Meg (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), but agrees only to let Trudy swim after training hours, if she also agrees to shovel the coal for the boiler.

Once Trudy (Daisy Ridley, who also co-produced) gets a chance to show what she can do, she joins the team and beats Australian swimming star and future movie actress Annette Kellerman (whose life story starred Esther Williams in “Million Dollar Mermaid”). She competes in the first Olympics that had a women’s swim team (the head of the American Olympic Committee and the Amateur Athletic Union, James E. Sullivan, played here by Glenn Fleshler) had previously blocked it. Sullivan insisted that the women’s team had to stay in their rooms for the entire Atlantic crossing, with nuns posted outside their doors to ensure their “protection.”

And then, she decides to swim the Channel. As we see in newsreels of the era, it was a world-wide news story when anyone succeeded. She gets reluctant support from Sullivan, who insists on replacing Epstein as her coach with a man who failed in his own attempt to swim the Channel a dozen times.

Ridley is lovely as Trudy, her tender relationship with her sister, her resilience, her determination, and her kindness. If you get a chance, see this on the big screen; the cinematography by Oscar Fuera is outstanding, whether in the grimy streets of New York or the vast expanse and turbulent waves of the Channel. The family scenes are warm-hearted, even in the struggles and disagreements. Colorful characters include Clifford and Fleshler along with an irascible successful Channel swimmer played by Stephen Graham, and an NBC radio announcer.

This movie could be called traditional or formulaic, but it is sincere and thoughtfully made, a good reminder of the importance of dreams, of heroes, and of stories that share them with us.

Parents should know that this film includes a child who is seriously ill (but recovers), family stress, a character who is not able to marry the person she loves due to family pressure, and a swim with a jellyfish attack and other dangers. A character is drugged. Some characters drink alcohol.

Family discussion: What made Trudy different? Why was she so determined? Why didn’t some people want her to succeed? What worried her parents most?

If you like this, try: “Million Dollar Mermaid,” “Queen of Katwe,” and “Wild Hearts Can’t be Broken”

Related Tags:


Based on a true story Biography movie review Movies -- format Sports
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik