Over the past year, Disney+ has brought Hamilton into our living rooms and “Baby Yoda” into our vocabulary, but the video streaming giant’s latest original movie is the one that’s ready to capture our hearts. Clouds is the true story of Zach Sobiech (played by bright newcomer Fin Argus), a high school teenager with a reliable best friend, a loving family and a girl in class he sees a future with. It sounds like a carefree All-American story, when in reality, it has its own challenges and heartache. Zach has osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, which he has been dealing with throughout his teen years. Despite his condition and the occasional setbacks, Zach is determined to continue living the life he wants, without limits.
Based on “Clouds: A Memoir” written by Zach’s real-life mom Laura, filmmakers worked closely with the Sobiech family and they want to make very clear what this film is and isn’t. “It’s a coming-of-age musical where cancer is the antagonist but it’s not a cancer movie. Zach was so much more than his illness,” says Clouds director Justin Baldoni, who got to know Zach really well before he died in 2013. “I made him a promise. And I said, ‘Listen, Zach. All I can do is tell you that I will do whatever I can in my power to further your story.’”
In Clouds, when Zach and his best friend Sammy (played by versatile actress and music artist Sabrina Carpenter) decide to create music together and post their song “Clouds” to the internet, what comes next gives Zach the purpose and excitement of an extraordinary life worth living.
Beyond the film’s chart-topping music, what Clouds does best is it authentically shows family connection and how cancer does not affect just one person, but everyone around them in their own ways of grieving. As painful as that can be to watch on-screen in the film, viewers are sure to appreciate this honest depiction of the resilience of unconditional love always showing up.
With a strong supporting cast of veteran actors Neve Campbell and Tom Everett Scott as Zach’s parents and additional newcomer Madison Iseman playing Zach’s girlfriend, Clouds provides performances with depth that do justice to Zach’s real story, as most of the actors were able to meet and discuss their character with their real-life counterpart. Carpenter valued the time she had on-set with Zach’s real-life best friend, Sammy. “It wasn’t work, it didn’t feel like I was doing research hanging out with Sammy. She has become one of my favorite people,” Carpenter continued. “To get to have her around as [the film] was being created, you don’t get that all the time. She was there and that was a really, really special tool.”
Clouds has already become more of a movement than a movie with the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, which Zach set up in his name before he died, raising funds to find a cure, so that future kids do not have to go through what Zach had to endure. After dedicating himself to embody Zach’s love for life accurately on-screen, Argus knows what he would say to Zach today, if only he had the chance. “I would just say thank you. A deep, heartfelt thank you,” Argus reveals. “He has given me a new perspective on grief & loss and allowed me to see life for the value it provides daily. The little things.”
While filming, Baldoni had an empty co-director’s chair set up next to him with “Zach Sobiech” written on it, as Baldoni says Zach was always there to help guide him throughout the filmmaking process. Following the promise he made to Zach before he died, Baldoni knows what he would say to Zach today as Clouds is released on Disney+. “What I would say is thank you. Thank you for trusting me and thank you for never leaving my side. I will never forget you and I’m so happy now that the world will get to meet you in a whole new way.”
Following the new release of Clouds, Disney+ will also soon release a 10-part series called Beyond the Clouds, which will dive deeper into Zach’s life and the making of the film.
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