On Disney+ Friday October 16 is “Clouds”, a movie based on the true story of Zach Sobiech, a singer-songwriter whose song about his fight with cancer went viral shortly before his death in 2013. “Clouds” is directed by Justin Baldoni and based on a memoir written by Sobiech’s mother. Baldoni met the Sobiechs in 2013 when he directed “My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech.”
“We started talking about ways to further his story with him and his mom,” Baldoni said. “He really wanted to do more. So after I left, I made a promise to him. Actually, I was FaceTiming with him and Amy just before he passed away, and I made a promise to him that I would do whatever I could to further his story and make sure that music, and his message, and obviously his fund, the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, was just seen by as many people all over the world and would hopefully raise money to end childhood cancer.”
Of the film’s inspiration, Fin Argus (Zach) said, “I think something that you get to see a little bit of in the documentary is Zach’s goofiness, and being able to play into that was so much fun, and showing how that manifests in his different relationships. He was such a positive and just happy guy, and being able to portray those funny, quirky relationships, even in the face of such adversity, was really fun and healing, and I think he’s inspiring for that reason.”
Zach (Fin Argus) is a high school senior undergoing chemotherapy for bone cancer, and, while the film begins with him anticipating his cancer going into remission, he soon discovers that he has less than a year to live. With the encouragement of his parents (Neve Campbell, Tom Everett Scott) and his English teacher (Lil Rel Howery), Zach and his best friend, Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter), follow their dreams to write and record their own music.
“Clouds” watches like a mix of “A Walk to Remember” and “Lorenzo’s Oil,” which is to say, it is very sad. Parts of the movie fit more into a teen movie mold, but it’s mostly vignette’s of Zach’s last year: going to a Jason Mraz concert, recording his viral song and driving his dream car. There are some really honest scenes of dealing with terminal illness and end of life planning that don’t usually show up in “cancer movies.” Argus Fin and Sabrina Carpenter are charming as Zach and Sammy, and overcome a lot of the cringeworthy teen dialogue.
The filmmakers try to push four or five different movies into “Clouds,” and sometimes they conflict with each other. While some parts of the film are dedicated earnestly to Zach’s relationship with his girlfriend, minutes later the movie plays more on a potential romance with his best friend and writing partner. The titular song does not come about until about three quarters of the way through the movie, and the movie repeats itself a lot, stitching together scenes of heart to hearts, and important phone calls.
Overall “Clouds” could use a critical eye to cut about 35 minutes out of the middle, but it still delivers some inspirational moments and more than a few tears.