Laura Sobiech never thought her family’s story would make national headlines, much less become a major motion picture.
“I joke that we just bump along behind the story, and we go wherever God leads us,” Laura told The Christian Post. “I can see God’s hand throughout all of it, even today. It doesn't stop."
At the age of 14, Laura’s son, Zach, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He died on May 20, 2013, days after his 18th birthday. During the final year of his life, Zach, an aspiring musician, wrote a song titled "Clouds," which became an unexpected viral sensation, reaching No.1 on iTunes and generating millions of views on YouTube.
Shortly after Zach’s death, Laura wrote a memoir about her family’s experience, titled Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way. Nearly seven years after his death, Zach’s story is hitting the big screen in a film titled “Clouds.”
Directed by Justin Baldoni (“Five Feet Apart,” “Jane the Virgin”), “Clouds” stars Neve Campbell, Fin Argus, and Sabrina Carpenter. The film, which hits the streaming service Disney+ on Oct. 16, begins four years after Zach’s initial diagnosis and follows his relationships with his family, friends, and girlfriend.
“The emotions of the movie were very accurate,” Laura told CP. “I think Justin did an amazing job of showing it in a way that I think really reflected how our family dealt with things. We're not super overly emotional. He didn't bang people over the head with the emotional part of it, but you can still experience Zach’s story in a way that it connects with your own life.”
The Sobiech family was heavily involved in the making of “Clouds," filmed in Montreal, Canada. Laura was on set for some of the filming and donated Zach’s actual crutches and clothes to be used in the film. In fact, the red-checked shirt is the same shirt that the teen wore when he recorded “Clouds."
“It was an emotional roller coaster up in Montreal,” she admitted. “It was tough seeing Fin wear Zach’s clothes. He’s built like Zach and he's as tall as Zach was.”
Still, Laura admitted that when she and her husband, Rob, first watched the film, they both “cried and laughed,” adding: “That was kind of our gauge for whether or not it was true to our story, and it was.”
“Clouds” is loosely based on Laura’s 2014 book, which was birthed out of a series of blog posts she wrote throughout Zach’s journey.
“I honestly didn't think I was capable of writing a book,” she said. “But one of our prayers through this whole thing was, ‘OK Lord, you open doors and we'll walk through them.’ And I was offered a book deal, so I said, ‘OK.’ I could just see God's hand in the whole thing.”
Zach’s story was also documented in Baldoni’s 2013 online reality series, "My Last Days.” After her son’s story went viral, Laura said people would often applaud her family for being “amazing” — a compliment she said was “lovely to hear,” but “not true all the time.”
“It was hard,” she admitted. “It was difficult. And the only way we got through it was through God's grace. I wanted to have a place to really share that story to show how God's hand was at work through the whole thing. I wanted to share the struggle of it, too. I wanted to let people enter into our home with us and witness how it was in family life, because it was messy.”
Baldoni, she said, did an “excellent” job portraying just how hard Zach’s battle was on the entire family, both individually and in their relationships with one another.
“I wanted people to be able to connect with that because of its relevance,” she said. “If you're standing outside looking at a family that looks perfect, you can't connect with them. It doesn't resonate with you. I wanted people to see that we are just an average family and it was by God's grace we were able to be part of something extraordinary. We didn't make it happen. God did.”
In her book, Laura shares how her marriage, in particular, struggled amid Zach’s diagnosis — a reality “Clouds” captures in one scene.
“Rob and I were just tucked in our own corridors and losing touch with each other,” Laura recalled, admitting it was a “hard scene” for her and her husband to watch play out.
“There's a vulnerability of letting people in, you know, setting yourself up to be judged,” she said. “But we want to offer other couples hope, because we're OK now. We've worked through it and we're happy, and we're whole, and we're stronger than we were before.”
While Zach loved performing — and would think a big-screen movie about his life was “cool” — he also had a “very contemplative and sort of humble side of him where he knew he didn't necessarily deserve this kind of adulation and attention,” Laura said.
“I think he had a pretty balanced view of things,” she posited.
In 2012, the Sobiechs, in partnership with Children’s Cancer Research Fund, launched Zach’s Movement, which seeks to raise money for Osteosarcoma. To date, the fund has raised $2.1 million from 71 countries around the world, and in the seven years since Zach’s passing, researchers have made 16 new research discoveries about the genetics of osteosarcoma and opened a national clinical trial to test a potentially groundbreaking drug.
Laura said she hopes “Clouds” raises awareness about Osteosarcoma — a goal she knows Zach would have supported.
“He knew there was a responsibility that came with his platform. He knew he needed to serve others and was very aware of the power he had to touch other people’s lives,” she said.
To this day, Laura still sees God working through Zach’s story. In fact, she said, “it doesn’t stop.”
“Doors open, they keep opening, and we keep seeing that,” she added. “For example, it’s a pandemic and people can’t go to theaters, but this story will reach even more people by being streamed. We see God’s hand in that, too. Here’s this little story in a really crazy time in our history that people are going to be able to tap into and hopefully be touched in some way.”
Though her faith is central to her life, Laura said she wanted to ensure “Clouds” didn’t come off as preachy.
“I don’t need to sell God. I don't want to be preaching at people. I just want to live my life and if you can pick something up from that, great,” she said. “The rest of it's the Holy Spirit's job. I just do my part.”
Through her family’s story, Laura hopes to impart hope to others struggling, encouraging viewers to “trust that God is working through all of these crazy things in our lives.”
“There's a bigger picture here,” she said. “I know we hear that kind of thing all the time, but there really is. We're part of something much bigger. And if we learn to let go of our own plans and be open-handed with God, He will work through us in incredible ways.”
“Clouds” will be available to stream on Disney+ starting Friday. The film is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.