The new 2020 film Clouds might sound like a stereotypical “kid with a disease combined with love story” type of movie, but this story flies high in the sky above many other similar yet cliche movies. The film, directed by Jason Baldoni, tells the true story of Zach Sobiech, who is portrayed by Fin Argus, and the struggle with a terminal cancer diagnosis that he and his family and friends have to deal with. Other stars in the film include Sabrina Carpenter, Madison Iseman, Neve Campbell, Tom Everett Scott, Lil Rel Howery, and a Jason Mraz cameo.
The storytelling in the movie Clouds is what really makes this film come to life. The producers are telling the story of the real Zach Sobiech in the most accurate way possible. They even take their accuracy as far as contacting the Sobiech family to use actual items from Sobiech’s life. Director and producer Jason Baldoni explains the logic behind this decision in a behind the scenes video:
“So, the Sobiech’s have actually let us bring all of Zach’s clothes from his closet to be used in the film,” Baldoni said. “Half the clothes you see in the movie are Fin wearing Zach’s real clothes. We’d be crazy to try to recreate those things when they exist already- we’re using things that Zach touched and he lived with his whole life.” Not only do the filmmakers create a realistic portrayal of Zach’s story, they also demonstrate the beauty behind the story by using artistic techniques. There are many aesthetic camera shots, such as a camera placed outside the door of the car, moving with Zach as he is filmed on his way to give a performance, or the beautiful color scheme of a nature shot when Zach gives his girlfriend an important gift. Camerawork such as this shows the viewer the beauty of the story in an underlying form by conveying external beauty to represent the internal beauty found in the message of the movie.
Another way that the film is brought to fruition is through the music used in the soundtrack of the movie. The real Zach Sobiech formed a band with his best friend, and some of their real songs are used in the background of the movie while the actors who play these characters made covers of some of the band’s other real songs, such as the song “Clouds,” the inspiration for the name of the movie. The use of the specific songs that the real Zach Sobiech actually wrote continues to make the film come to life and show the viewers a true story. The rest of the music in the soundtrack also enhances the mood of the movie by mirroring the sentiment with the music. For example, during a sad moment between Zach and his best friend, the song “afterthoughts” by renforshort is playing, which is a slower, sadder tune to really impress the mood of the scene onto the viewer. Overall, all the music used in the movie helps the reader feel more in tune with the emotions and storyline of the movie.
The creators of the movie also use development of each of the characters to continue to strengthen the message of the movie. There are many characters in Zach’s community who are strongly affected by his diagnosis, such as his family, his best friend, his girlfriend, his teachers, other kids at his school, and especially Zach himself. The movie truly demonstrates the reality of how difficult it is for each of the characters to deal with something like this. For example, Zach’s younger sister, Grace, is playful and teases him at the beginning of the movie, then comes to be distant from him in the middle of the movie because she is scared to face the scary reality of his situation, but then is able to show her love for him by the end of the movie. Film critic Guy Lodge comments on scenes like the emotional one with Grace:
“These stray moments of domestic discontent make for some of the best scenes in “Clouds,” cutting through its cotton-wool comforts,” said Lodge. “In one, Zach’s sister faces down her quiet terror of visiting him on his deathbed.” The raw and real character development that takes place in this movie is what sets it apart from other similar films that would be considered more cliche due to their resistance of facing reality the way that Clouds does.
Overall, Clouds is definitely worth the watch for a relatively more mature audience prepared for a true emotional rollercoaster. The film is lighthearted at times, but bears heavy emotional baggage at others. The movie will provoke both smiles and tears, and I would recommend it on a scale of at least 9 out of 10. The movie might border on the lines of cliche initially, but it truly tugs on the heart strings more than many other movies I’ve seen before, and gives an extremely accurate and vivid depiction of the Sobiech family’s devastating yet beautiful story.