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Clouds is a 2020 film directed and produced by Justin Baldoni and written by Kara Holden. Based upon the novel Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way by Laura Sobiech, the film was released on Disney+ on October 16, 2020.

Synopsis

In the Fall of 2012, Zach Sobiech performs an acoustic rendition of "Sexy and I Know It" to an amused crowd at school. Zach has been struggling with osteosarcoma and has been receiving regular treatments for it. His best friend, Sammy Brown, conspires with him by helping him to write music ("Blueberries"). Zach manages to ask out fellow student Amy Adamle for a picnic, but before he is able to do so, he begins to have a coughing fit that concerns his mother, Laura, who rushes him to the hospital. He has a collapsed lung and an emergency surgery is performed on him. While they fix his lung, they learn that the treatments are no longer effective and his cancer is now terminal giving him six to ten months to live. Zach tells Sammy and Amy about his diagnosis while he is inspired by his teacher, Milton Weaver, about what he is to do with the rest of his life.

In the Winter of 2012, Zach and his family go to Lourdes, France, in Laura's desperate attempt at Zach having some sort of miracle. Zach returns home to hang out with Sammy ("Coffee Cup") and learns that she has won tickets to a Jason Mraz concert. Zach decides to use the opportunity to ask Amy about to prom and she accepts ("I'm Yours"). After having convulsions, Zach goes to Sammy's house in the middle of the night demanding that they form a band. Both admit that they love each other, but that they are incapable of having a full relationship. They continue to bond over songwriting ("Fix Me Up") and Sammy posts their music on YouTube which earns them some fame. Despite this, Zach is certain that he will fail to achieve anything beyond the video. He is later given encouragement by Weaver.

Zach's father, Rob, rents a Nissan GT-R for him to drive and impress Amy with. While at her house, the two proceed to make out ("My Little Dancer"), but when Amy comments on his scars, Zach becomes despondent and tells her that he will never offer the things she wants from him and breaks up with her while leaving in a huff. Laura confronts Rob over the decision to get a car for Zach and he breaks down admitting that he did it to make his son happy as he is unable to do anything about his eventual death. In the Spring of 2013, Weaver reveals to Zach and Sammy that he showed their video to BMI and that they want to sign them. They head to New York City to complete the transaction as they call themselves A Firm Handshake ("Ames"). On the flight back home, Zach suddenly has a moment of creative energy and writes the song "Clouds" and records it shortly afterwards where it becomes a colossal hit.

Zach finally makes the time to apologize to Amy about his behavior and the two of them get back together. Zach speaks privately to his mother about how to handle his remains and his funeral, suggesting bagpipes be played. Sammy and the Sobiechs learn that Zach might not make it to prom. Having been given the opportunity to play at the Metro, they decide to combine the prom with a concert, a graduation and a fundraiser for osteosarcoma. The day arrives and despite Zach's worsening condition, decides to go perform anyway. Sammy begins the show by performing "How to Go to Confession" before Zach heads out to perform "Clouds". Zach's breathing begins to labor, but he is moved when the entire audience sings the song for him.

Zach passes away on May 20, 2013. Even though he never made it, Zach wrote a college essay telling people that you do not need to be dying to know how to live. Sammy, Amy and the rest of A Firm Handshake come together for a group photo in remembrance of Zach; noticing that a cloud in the sky resembles a "Z". During the credits, footage of the real Zach and Sammy play combined with footage of the filmmakers filming scenes of the movie as well as the cast and crew meeting with the real people involved in Zach's life ("Sandcastles").

Cast

  • Fin Argus as Zach Sobiech
  • Madison Iseman as Amy Adamle
  • Sabrina Carpenter as Samantha "Sammy" Brown
  • Neve Campbell as Laura Sobiech
  • Tom Everett Scott as Rob Sobiech
  • Lil Rel Howery as Milton Weaver
  • Summer H. Howell as Grace Sobiech
  • Vivien Endicott-Douglas as Alli Sobiech
  • Dylan Everett as Sam Sobiech
  • Jason Mraz as Himself

Production

In February 2016, it was announced Warner Bros. had acquired rights to the novel Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom's Small Prayer in a Big Way by Laura Sobiech, with Justin Baldoni set to direct the film.

Filming began on October 16, 2019. Most of it was filmed in Quebec, Canada while the rest was filmed at Heritage Regional High School. Filming wrapped on November 27, 2019.

On May 14, 2020, it was announced that Disney+ had acquired distribution rights to the film from Warner Bros. in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reception

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 76% based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 6.60/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Although its emotional swings occasionally miss, Clouds soars higher than most young adult films -- and proved director Justin Baldoni's mastery behind the camera." Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 55 out of 100, based on 7 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

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