Review: 'Clouds' rises above cliches to deliver heart-wrenching story
Courtesy of Disney+
Justin Baldoni’s “Clouds” offers a mature conversation around life and death. Though originally set up as a theatrical release from Warner Bros, you’d never know it because “Clouds” has all the tropes associated with the usual “Inspired by a true story” Disney narrative. Good looking lead star? Check. Uplifting message? Check. Bubbly soundtrack? Check. Although Baldoni’s flick falls into those buckets, the heart of the narrative never feels manipulative or cheap.
This is one of those rare surprises when you’re expecting something akin to “The Fault In Our Stars” but are blown away by how authentic it feels by comparison. You won’t be judged for crying at this one, because I welled up consistently. The story, which feels ripe for the Disney formula, is allowed to breathe and while creative liberties are taken with the material, its soul remains intact, which is more than you can say for the plethora of Disney live action films that have come as of late.
In 2013, 17-year-old aspiring songwriter Zach Sobiech went viral with his radio bopping hit “Clouds,” which put a positive light on his battle with osteosarcoma, a form of cancer he knew was terminal prior to recording the song. Fin Argus brings the warmth of Zach to the screen in “Clouds” which chronicles the last months of his life, juggling everything from his diagnosis and personal relationships with parents (Neve Campbell and Tony Everett Scott), best friend and musical partner Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter), new girlfriend, Amy (Madison Iseman), and eventual rise to internet stardom.
Having previously directed fellow teenage weepie “Five Feet Apart,” Baldoni understands a thing or two about teeangers with terminal illnesses. But “Clouds” has more to shoulder than just your average cancer stricken teenage love story, and forces the audiences to witness harsh and unpleasant decisions that go with a diagnosis like Zach’s, where instead of brushing aside the cancers’ seriousness, it tackles the subject head on. And given the script's true story nature, we know where things will end up, but it's Baldoni’s commitment to Zach’s legacy that helps “Clouds” rise above melodramatic cliches.
That “Clouds” doesn’t shy away from the reality of cancer among children sets it apart from the realm of most “inspirational biopics.” Despite the flow of events becoming cluttered, bouncing around several different moments in an already condensed timeline, the fact it never was a “Disney” movie could be, ironically, the film’s biggest strength.
In other words, it’s not “Disney-fied” and the authentic performances, specifically from that of Argus and Campbell, help the more predictable, Hallmarky, elements go down smoothly. “Clouds” is coming at a time when perhaps our emotions are all over the place and we could use a good cry. It’s hard to explain why certain movies touch you more than others, but in this case it's best not to fight those feelings and let the story wash over you.
CLOUDS premiers on Disney+ Friday Oct 16th.