Disney+’s newest offering is a story colored with many themes encompassing life and love as well as death and loss. Clouds is a film not to be watched by the faint of heart or those not within arm’s reach of a box of tissues. The movie follows the true story of Zach Sobiech, a Minnesotan teen diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Clouds follows Zach’s battle with cancer that ultimately leads to a terminal diagnosis. At just seventeen years old, Zach is faced with the realization that very soon, his short life will be over.
The topic of death is not easily broached in a story about young adults. Teenagers have their whole lives ahead of them – death should be the last thing on their minds. The impact of Zach’s diagnosis hits that much harder, coupled with the fact he’s a senior in high school, looking forward to prom, graduation, and college. All that is taken away from him in an instant. And he has only a few months to come to terms with his new future.
Clouds takes us through more than just loss – it also tells a story about creating. Zach, along with his best friend Sammy Brown, forms a band they dub A Firm Handshake. Zach and Sammy are talented musicians, though Sammy struggles with the confidence to share her voice on stage. After Zach’s diagnosis, the pair decide to write an album of songs and share them with the world. The album serves as Zach’s parting gift to the world – something he leaves behind to make it that little bit brighter.
Throughout Clouds, we see Zach isn’t the only one dealing with loss. All around him are people coming to terms with losing Zach’s kind, caring presence in their lives. Zach’s mother, Laura, does her best to make Zach’s days as full of life as possible while pushing down her devastation. Sammy opens herself up to Zach, revealing secrets that enrich their friendship and inspire their music. Zach’s girlfriend Amy showers him with all the love she can during the time they have together.
Clouds isn’t just a tearjerker or some weepy, angsty teen drama. It deals with its tough subject matter as frankly as possible, without the false hope of an abrupt miracle and instead with calm, sorrowful acceptance. It shows a loving family still joking and teasing, comfortable and irreverent banter between friend and many more heartfelt and happy moments that punch through the gloom cast by Zach’s illness.
Clouds also shows that it’s never too late to chase after your dreams. Zach and Sammy’s music grows into a sensation. Zach’s song “Clouds,” written about his battle with cancer, went viral in 2012. It surpassed 3 million views before Zach passed away and is currently at 14 million views. The movie Clouds follows the story of Zach’s last months as closely as possible to honor the memory of his inspiring life.
Clouds shares a small and human story about an inescapable fact of life. But in doing so, it shows there’s more to this world than the paths we think we should be walking down. Even more, Clouds demonstrates that life can be full, even when it’s short.