‘Clouds’ tells the beautifully bittersweet story of A Firm Handshake: Review

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Clouds is a new release to Disney+ about the duo A Firm Handshake’s success before the death of one of its members, Zach Sobiech.

Based on the true events of the musical duo A Firm Handshake, the film is about Zach Sobeich’s (Fin Argus) battle with cancer. More specifically, a bone cancer called osteosarcoma. The film captures the last few months of Zach’s life, as he and his best friend Sammy Brown (Sabrina Carpenter) achieve Zach’s last dream. Playing and writing music with his best friend. Together, they end up a musical phenomenon, getting signed to a music label.

As their song Clouds is being played all over the world, Zach learns important lessons about not taking things for granted and living every day as if it’s his last. Just like in any other film in the same genre. Even though the plot of the film is extremely predictable, you can’t help but get invested in the story and the characters, thanks to the incredible portrayal and chemistry between the different characters.

Clouds Disney Plus Zach Sobiech Movie Release Date, Trailer, More

At the same time, some of the scenes do seem a bit forced and rushed. An example of this is the beginning part of Zach and Amy’s relationship. It feels like they immediately start to like each other, without the awkward in-between stage that feels like a crucial part in an emotional romance (but not romance-based) film like this. 

This is the second film from director Justin Baldoni, his first being Five Feet Apart. And just like Baldoni’s directorial debut, Clouds is based on a book. In this instance, a memoir called Fly A Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way that was written by Zach’s mother, Laura Sobiech. Baldoni also got the chance to get to know Zach and his family personally before he passed, which made him more determined to make the film as good, yet true to their story as possible. 

‘‘Before he passed away, I was FaceTiming with him.. and I made him a promise. I told him that I would do whatever I could, whatever was in my power to continue telling his story and make sure that the world knew his name and listened to his music.’’ 

 Justin Baldoni told Refinery29.

This makes Baldoni’s choice to include a lot of the songs from A Firm Handshake’s album a lot clearer. Although Clouds is nowhere near being considered a musical, the musical aspects bring a huge deal to the film as a whole. The actors, Argus and Carpenter, rerecorded some of the songs for the film, but the original versions are still included at the end. A poignant reminder to the audience that the film is based on a true story,

In his interview with Refinery29, Baldoni also reveals that Zach’s family sent him a lot of Zach’s personal belongings, such as clothes, sheets, and random things from his room, for Baldoni to have in Zach’s room in the film. Fin Argus even wears the same clothes that Zach wore when recording the video of the song Clouds with Sammy. Even though it might not seem like a noticeable detail, you can definitely tell that it feels more authentic because of it. It’s like the energy of the ‘real’ Zach is transferred through the camera and onto the screen.

As a director, Baldoni tends to drag out some of the more dramatic scenes in order to make the emotions linger a bit longer. However, he managed to do this without making the audience suspect that they were being manipulated,

The Verdict

For a film being released exclusively on Disney+, Clouds ended up being a lot more emotional than I expected it to be. Disney has previously touched upon the topic of death and illnesses in its films and series, but it has most of the time, been adapted to be suitable for people of all ages to watch it. But with Clouds, it hasn’t been as censored or child friendly as I imagined it’d be. You’ll definitely need some tissues when you watch this film.

Rating: 8/10

Words by Alice Sjöberg.

Clouds was released on the 16th October and is now available to stream on Disney+. 

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