Clouds Parent Guide
This isn't a subtle film, but it is sincere, and that makes it more than just another weepy teen flick.
Parent Movie Review
If you were around young people in 2012 or 2013, chances are you frequently heard playlists featuring Clouds. Written and performed by Zach Sobiech, a teenager with terminal cancer, the cheerful, bouncy song lifted hearts around the world as it climbed the charts. Now, director Justin Baldoni has created an equally heartwarming film about Zach and his music.
The movie begins in 2012, as Zach (Fin Argus) balances the challenges of chemotherapy with the normal problems that come with adolescence. He’s too scared to ask the girl he likes (Madison Iseman) on a date – after all, he reasons, who wants to date a bald cancer patient? He and his best friend, Sam (Sabrina Carpenter), write songs, but he’s reluctant to perform them, preferring to cover popular music. Then the really bad news comes – the chemo isn’t working and Zach’s going to die, likely before he graduates.
Knowing his time is short focuses Zach’s thinking. His English teacher asks the class “What do you want to do with your one wild and precious life?” Zach takes this to heart and the remaining months of his life are his answer to this question.
Clouds is not a subtle film, but it is a sincere one and that makes it more than just another weepy teen film. Zach is irresistible, filled with courage, relentless optimism, and an endearing desire to make everyone around him happy. Watching him smile into his bathroom mirror every morning, even when he’s suffering the effects of chemotherapy, is to see a young man gathering emotional strength before he heads off to face the day. It’s an incredibly heart-tugging moment. For all that, the film is careful not to turn Zach into a saint – he’s a normal teenager who sometimes pushes away those who love him. And like any teenager (or adult for that matter), he struggles to answer the perennial question, “Why is this happening to me?” What gives his story its resonance is that Zach doesn’t get bogged down in the “Why?”, moving on quickly to the next question: “What now?”
Given the arc of Zach’s story, it’s not surprising that this movie comes with a flood of positive messages, chief of which is Zach’s example of finding meaning and courage in the face of adversity. He’s also surrounded by empathetic, supportive people who will rekindle your faith in the power of communities to come together. Families, too, are lauded as the film offers a positive, realistic look at a loving family that suffers the strain of Zach’s impending death, while still managing to pull together. The only issue that might give parents pause is the movie’s sexual content, which consists of a few make-out sessions in bed. There is some passionate kissing and a few items of clothing are removed, but there is no nudity or sexual intercourse.
This film should be inspirational for teens but it might be hard for parents to watch. As a mom, this movie is my worst nightmare. Watching as Rob and Laura Sobiech are given Zach’s terminal diagnosis is a gut punch. And listening to Laura and Zach discuss his advance directive and funeral plans will likely make parents cry. I know I did. But for viewers of any age, the movie’s message is worth the tears.Directed by Justin Baldoni. Starring Fin Argus, Sabrina Carpenter, and Madison Iseman. Running time: 121 minutes. Theatrical release October 16, 2020. Updated October 13, 2020
Watch the trailer for Clouds
Rating & Content Info
Why is Clouds rated PG-13? Clouds is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for brief strong language.
Violence: None noted.
Sexual Content: A young man sings “I’m sexy and I know it” and gyrates suggestively. A male character is seen shirtless, wrapped in a sheet in a religious ceremony. A main character’s back and chest are seen in medical contexts. A young man removes his shirt and a young woman kisses his chest. A couple kiss passionately in bed on a few occasions. A young man falls asleep in his bed with a young woman.
Profanity: There is a single sexual expletive used in the movie.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated October 13, 2020
Clouds Parents' Guide
You can learn more about or contribute to the fundraising campaign launched by Zach here:
You can also contribute to cancer research through the American Cancer Society.
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you want to know more about Zach and his family, you can read Fly a Little Higher by Laura Sobiech. The book has also been updated to tie in with the movie’s release and is available as Clouds: A Memoir.
If you’re looking for uplifting stories about finding hope in the face of suffering, you can turn to Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy. Written by Stephanie Nielson, it looks over her life and how she managed to find happiness after surviving a plane crash that burned over 80% of her body. A brief video of her experience is available here.
The author of the Narnia books, C.S. Lewis, was devastated by his wife’s death from cancer and struggled to maintain his faith. This led to perhaps his most heartfelt book, A Grief Observed.
Related home video titles:
Cancer movies about teens are a subgenre all their own with plenty to choose from. Teens fall in love as they battle cancer in The Fault In Our Stars. A young woman’s health challenges devastate her newly reformed boyfriend in A Walk to Remember. Based on real events, I Still Believetells the story of Christian singer, Jeremy Camp and his fiancée, Melissa, and her devastating cancer diagnosis. A mature couple faces cancer in Shadowlands, the story of author C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Gresham.