‘Clouds’ Review: The Remembrance of Zach Sobiech’s Story Brings Tears to Viewers

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For those who haven’t watched the original documentary released on YouTube in 2013, Zach Sobiech’s story is definitely one that pulls on the heartstrings and brings some tears out. The film Clouds is based on Minnesota teenager Zach Sobiech who passed away shortly after his 17th birthday from osteosarcoma. The disease is a type of bone cancer that can be terminally dangerous if not treated properly. If not localized, the long-term survival rate is 30%, and the chances are lower when faced at an age of rapid bone growth, just like how Sobiech was in the film. 

Nonetheless, the movie was beautiful. Not only did it portray a wonderful message, it also shed light on a truly inspirational story that I’m sure touched the hearts of many. The film shows how one’s positive spirit can guide them through tough times, and how perspective can define what your true “end” is.  After watching this film, more than once I may add, I do see and believe in “The Zach Effect.” 

Not to mention, Clouds follows the powerful, yet uplifting tone of most projects that are associated with its director. This film was directed by Justin Baldoni, who also has directed other emotional movies such as Five Feet Apart, and plays the role of Rafael Solano in the CW’s Jane the Virgin. In 2013, Baldoni directed a documentary series My Last Days that was originally supposed to be six episodes. Stumbling upon his discovery of Sobiech’s song “Clouds”, Baldoni wanted to capture the effect that Zach had on the lives of his family and friends along with the rest of the world, and therefore made a seventh. Also Fin Argus, who had played Zach Sobiech in the films, and Sabrina Carpenter, who had played Sammy Brown, were familiar faces that definitely drew more attention to the movie itself, if the character’s backstory weren’t enough already.

Sobiech seemed to be very close with his family and his friends as well, which made his story that much more impactful on others. They always had dinner together and enjoyed their family time watching movies or his sister’s basketball games. Everyone had described Zach as someone who was always happy and always smiling. But, he found his passion in musical expression and in cars. To fulfill his love for cars, in his last couple of weeks, his family rented Zach a Nissan GTR to drive around for a week. It gave him the ultimate rush–in a good way, and his initial reaction was certainly priceless. In terms of music, Zach loved to write songs with his best friend, Sammy Brown, who had been one of his closest friends for many years. They formed the band, A Firm Handshake, and released songs like “Fix Me Up” to make memories of Zach and for the feelings he wanted those in his life to remember.

In the film, Baldoni captured the true essence of Zach’s relationship with his girlfriend, Amy Adamle, and how much their relationship meant to Zach in his last days and beyond. The presence of the couple added to the struggle and sentimental effect of Sobiech’s story itself, and how much Zach attempted to keep his life normalized despite his terminal disease. My favorite scene of theirs is when Zach asks Amy to prom at a Jason Mraz concert. There, he also has a moment of reflection when the audience is singing–wondering how it may feel to be Jason Mraz in that moment, and foreshadowing the moment where he had his own concert and was unable to finish the song. Personally, however, I don’t think the movie needed that weird love triangle scene where Zach found out that Sammy was in love with him because of a song she wrote, but I suppose it sparked their motivation to make music together. The situation was still left unanswered, as if the tension just disappeared.

I also felt like the inclusion of Mr. Weaver’s role was overplayed. It made it seem as though Zach found his new meaning of life through his teacher, as opposed to it just being his own realization. Mr. Weaver served as Zach’s “fairy godmother” figure and his insight had a major effect on Sobiech’s outlook on his near future. For example, in the scene where Sobiech and Weaver were laying down on the football field, Mr. Weaver had told him he had to reprioritize his life after stopping chemo. It seemed as though Zach was trying so hard to keep his life normal, that he lost his feeling of urgency to live his life out as one would. In the documentary, Zach hadn’t mentioned a particular teacher at all, so it was probably just a secondary character that helps develop the plot. And lastly, Zach’s parents seemed to be having some issues in the film, whether they were stemmed from their stressful situation of having a dying child, or something else less unfortunate. It diverted attention from the central story, but added a realistic aspect to the story that can explain other side effects of having a terminally ill child.

Although Zach’s life was cut short, he still managed to accomplish many things before his time was up. His single “Clouds” debuted at number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 shortly after his death. The YouTube video for the single has 16 million views and several thousands of people have done covers of the song, including those who perform in choirs. Not to mention, in 2012, Zach started an organization called the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, which has raised over 2 million dollars to help find better treatments for patients with osteosarcoma, and hopefully one day, a cure. To this day, the fund is still active and builds connections with the Children’s Cancer Research Fund and Disney+. Exhibited by all of these great achievements that have a lasting value, I have confidence in saying that “The Zach Effect” hasn’t worn off on anyone else either.