Clouds review: squeaky-clean story of real-life teen’s battle with cancer

This tale of musician and internet star Zach Sobiech is too sanitised for real adolescents

Fin Argus as Zach in Clouds

Film Title: Clouds

Director: Justin Baldoni

Starring: Fin Argus, Sabrina Carpenter, Madison Iseman, Neve Campbell, Tom Everett Scott, Lil Rel Howery

Genre: Family

Running Time: 122 min

Fri, Oct 16, 2020, 05:00


Zach Sobiech was an American singer-songwriter and musician from Minnesota who became a YouTube sensation in late 2012. Clouds, a song detailing his battle with cancer, became a global hit the following year, hitting No 1 on iTunes and charting in Ireland, the UK and on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sobiech died in May 2013 from complications from osteosarcoma, a rare bone condition, 17 days after his 18th birthday. Three years later, it was announced Warner Bros had acquired rights to Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way, a memoir by Zach’s mother Laura Sobiech.   

The finished film lands on Disney Plus after last-minute Covid-19 negotiations. It’s a little spicier than the streaming platform’s own-label content. A girlfriend falls asleep in the hero’s bed! May feature scenes of bare-chest kissing! And yet it’s difficult to think of a better home for this mostly squeaky-clean dying-young movie.   

Clouds official trailer

Another internet star, Fin Argus (The Gifted), brings plenty of energy and goofball charm as Zach. Sabrina Carpenter (The Hate U Give) is his best friend and bandmate Sammy, who, from her goo-goo-eyed introduction, nurses a major crush on the oblivious Zach. He, however, is preoccupied with Amy (Annabelle Comes Home’s Madison Wiseman.)   

There is some small familial discord when Zach is told his cancer has become terminal. His mother, Laura (Neve Campbell), takes him to France (and presumably Lourdes), but Kara Holden’s script is careful to avoid religious specifics. His dad, Rob (That Thing You Do’s Thomas Everett Scott; the Tom Hanks film gets a nod during the opening scene), buys Zach a car without consulting his wife.   

Jane the Virgin actor-turned-director Justin Baldoni has form in the sub-genre having previously presided over Five Feet Apart, starring Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson as teenagers with cystic fibrosis. Clouds’ odd not-quite-faith-film shape more recalls last year’s not-quite-dog-movie, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Too sanitised for most real-life adolescents and too meandering at two-hours-plus, it’s a family film. But what kind of family will watch it?