Clouds

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Clouds Movie Poster Image
Popular with kids
Heartbreaking but uplifting true story tackles loss, pain.
  • PG-13
  • 2020
  • 130 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 34 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Live every day as if it were your last because tomorrow isn't promised. Don't take life for granted; don't waste time. "You don't have to find out you're dying to start living." Pursue your dreams. Death is unjust and can take our loved ones before their time. Joy and pain can often come together. Religious faith can provide comfort in difficult times.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite suffering cancer and enduring pain-inducing chemotherapy treatments before a terminal diagnosis, Zach maintains a positive attitude. He's friendly, self deprecating, considerate, and widely liked. He calls himself a "fighter." Those around him also display great compassion and courage in facing Zach's diagnosis. His parents, distraught about losing him, do their best to make his final months special. Zach's girlfriend and best friend love him through difficult times. High school teacher Mr. Weaver is both an inspiring teacher and a supportive friend to Zach.

Violence

Zach is dying of cancer. He's shown in a chemotherapy session that provokes vomiting afterwards, an emergency surgery to repair a collapsed lung, several incidents of serious physical debility, receiving a terminal diagnosis, deciding plans for his own death and funeral, and ultimately dying. In one scene, he flees his girlfriend's house and nearly crashes his car into oncoming traffic.

Sex

Zach and girlfriend Amy flirt with each other, share kisses, and fall asleep together in bed. In one scene, they discuss the number of kids they'll have together and Amy suggests they should "start trying." In another scene, they begin undressing while kissing in bed. Their relationship is tender and mature, considering what they're grappling with. Zach sings "Sexy and I Know It" in front of a high school audience with lyrics about tanning his "cheeks" and having a "passion in my pants," and he dances suggestively.

Language

"Boogers," "barf," "screw that," "jerk," "buzzkill."

Consumerism

Cheerios, iPhone, Dakine, Facebook, YouTube, BMI, GTR, University of Minnesota, Jason Mraz.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teacher jokes about kids playing "beer pong" in college. Amy texts Zach that he better not come home from France smoking a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Clouds is the true, often sad story of Zach Sobiech (Fin Argus), a teenager diagnosed with terminal cancer who became known to many via his hit song "Clouds," which was recorded in the final months of his life. But the movie has a generally positive tone, thanks to Zach's natural good nature. In an opening scene, he sings "Sexy and I Know It" in front of a high school audience, dancing suggestively and conveying both popularity and a self deprecating sense of humor. Scenes show him struggling with illness, undergoing chemotherapy, being rushed in for emergency surgery, and facing his own terminal diagnosis. He occasionally reacts with anger and deception to his fate, including a scene in which he almost crashes a car. He's also painfully aware of the grief he's bringing to his loved ones, including his tight-knight family, a girlfriend, and his best friend, who all exhibit courage and compassion in their handling of Zach's illness. Scenes with his girlfriend include some kissing, snuggling in bed, vague references to sex, and removal of an outer layer of clothing. Catholic faith is implied, especially in a trip to Lourdes, France. The movie is based on the book by Sobiech's mother.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybooboofiberz22 October 23, 2020

Sad, heart wrenching, watch for a good cry

The movie clouds simply emotionally broke me. I didn’t plan on getting attached but the characters were lovable and i simply couldn’t resist crying. The fact t... Continue reading
Adult Written byKay P McDonald October 21, 2020

Sad, yes. Also a happy ending.

Life is not fair. You don't have to let the end be futile, you can go out with success and a life well lived, even for a short time.
Teen, 13 years old Written byMelWa10 November 3, 2020

Amazing...

This movie is amazing. It left me crying and speechless.

This movie doesn’t have much bad words, the only one that I actually herd was ‘frickin’ which was sai... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byHo11i July 2, 2021

Plucking Heart Strings

CLOUDS is a movie about overcoming fears, adapting to the circumstance and making the best of your one chance at life.
Even the first five minutes of the movie... Continue reading

What's the story?

CLOUDS is the name of the hit song teen Zach Sobiech (Fin Argus) wrote and performed not long before his death from cancer at the age of 18. When, at age 17, Zach is diagnosed with a terminal form of osteosarcoma that will give him just months to live, he has to decide what to make of his final days. With the support of his mom (Neve Campbell) and dad (Tom Everett Smith), and inspiration from his high school teacher Mr. Weaver (Lil Rey Howery), he opts to fight hard and live those days to their fullest. He and best friend Sammy (Sabrina Carpenter) post a music video to YouTube and generate tens of thousands of views, culminating in a contract to record their first album. Meanwhile, Zach is falling in love with classmate Amy (Madison Iseman) and grappling with both the grief his illness is causing his family and friends and his own mortality.

Is it any good?

Thanks to genuine performances and a heartbreakingly true story as inspiration, this is a moving film that avoids sentimentality or total predictability. That doesn't mean director Baldoni hasn't structured the narrative to elicit maximum feels, swinging between highs and lows in Zach's life regularly throughout Clouds. But Baldoni's meaningful connection to the Sobiech family -- he'd filmed Zach as part of the My Last Days series and, by his own account, forged deep relationships in the process -- has surely contributed to the truthfulness and care with which this story is told. The film is also based on a book by Zach's mom and props have been incorporated from Zach's own bedroom and wardrobe.

The authenticity of the endeavor, especially in light of a growing body of YA-targeted fare dealing with illness and death, including the Baldoni-directed Five Feet Apart, could have flagged without the right casting. Argus does an excellent job conveying the teen grappling with his own mortality at the same time as he's living entirely new and electrifying experiences, like first love or fame as a budding musician. Argus and Carpenter also have the musical talent to pull off their roles, and the film is lifted by its solid supporting cast and realistic dialogues. Two moments stand out as particularly memorable: a pilgrimage to the healing baths of Lourdes, filmed reverently inside the caves and beneath the water, and a snippet of bagpipe music indicating Zach's passing, an elegant substitute to a drawn-out funeral scene.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Clouds is ultimately a sad story or an uplifting one, or both. What positive messages did you take away from it?

  • The film is based on a true story and a book written by the real Zach's mom. What do you think are some of the challenges of adapting a true story into a film with actors?

  • What other movies have you watched featuring terminally ill teens? How did this story compare?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love teen tales

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate