You might not be able to watch “Clouds” a second time, but you’ll certainly be glad you saw it a first.
Based on the last days of a Minnesota teenager with a beautiful take on life, it will prompt the kind of tears that never seem to let up.
That’s not because director Justin Baldoni has crafted a maudlin tribute but because he has presented Zach Sobiech in such a realistic way you’ll want to hear everything he has to say.
Diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, Zach decides to stop chemotherapy and live the rest of his days as normally as possible.
Those days, though, are filled with plenty of memorable moments. A song Zach (Fin Argus) has written becomes a YouTube sensation, lands him a music deal and helps others discover his story.
Baldoni shows the harrowing moments, too, and lets those close to Zach offer their perspective on his life.
“Clouds” (which is named for the viral song) has so many uplifting moments that it’s hard to view it as one more dying teen movie.
“You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living,” Zach says at one point. “I just want to make people happy.”
Argus does a fine job capturing the teen’s anxiety and acceptance. He gives his girlfriend, Amy (Madison Iseman), perfect closure and inspires his mom (Neve Campbell) to keep his spirit alive.
When a favorite teacher (Lil Rey Howery) gets him an audience with a record company, “Clouds” becomes the ultimate Make-A-Wish experience. Others insist this isn’t a hat tip. Zach and his friend Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter) have the material to justify the attention and do plenty to demonstrate as much.
When he’s given a headlining gig at a Minneapolis club, it’s easy to see the effect he has on others.
What pulls this away from other faith-based films is the brutally honest way Zach deals with his situation. He’s pragmatic, loving and giving — particularly to those who don’t have the same sense of calm.
As Zach hits each of those milestones (a car ride is particularly fun), the sense of loss hits and, as you’ll see, the tears don’t stop.
We cry, not because the Sobiech family is about to experience a great loss but because we know Zach has what we lack. He’s a brave soul who teaches just by living.
And the movie — one of those films some might avoid — is a lesson everyone could use.
After you see it, you’ll want to watch some of the videos Zach made before he died. Baldoni got a chance to capture him in his element. The short subject, “My Last Days,” is a great encore and a way for fans of “Clouds” to hang on a bit more.
Tears are inevitable. But you’ll feel up, up, up after you’ve had a chance to meet someone as remarkable as Zach. He’s a wonder.
Available Oct. 16 on Disney+.
What “Clouds” • Three stars out of four • Run time 2:01 • Rating PG-13 • Content Brief strong language
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