Written and directed by Don Tjernagel, ‘Love Struck Sick’ is a comedy drama that stars Clint Boevers, Angelle Waltz, Joe Brown, Jordan Abbe and Tjernagel himself. Billed as a coming-of-age story, the film finds Clint (played by Clint Boevers) and Angie (played by Angelle Waltz) as two young adults looking for happiness and love in their respective lives. As fate would have it, unexplained circumstances will soon put them towards one another. With troubled upbringings and unclear financial futures, the two will find it a tall order when they decide to date.
Populated by crazy yet likeable characters, Love Struck Sick is more straightforward than many of Tjernagel’s other films and this is a good thing. Tjernagel’s greatest strength, arguably, has been creating fantastic characters who grow on you and this tradition continues in ‘Love Struck Sick’ as well. From the two main protagonists to the numerous side characters, we meet along the way, not only is each person distinct enough to be memorable but he or she also humanises the story in a way that must best be experienced first-hand.
In the acting department, Clint Boevers is a revelation while Angelle Waltz is both charming and delightful. The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic and both leads really make you believe that they have fallen in love head over heels with each other. Say what you will about Tjernagel’s films, but one cannot deny that they are always perfectly casted. Since he has already imagined and shot the film in his mind, Tjernagel knows exactly who to cast to best bring his characters to life. This means that the side characters are also as lively as the protagonists which really helps the story find its footing. In addition, Tjernagel is a fantastic writer as well and his script ensures that the little nuances of love are not lost in translation and the love story depicted feels organic, lively and completely original.
While most of Tjernagel’s efforts have dived into the decadence that has taken over American midwest, Love Struck Sick breaks this mould to focus on love. This is where one least expects Tjernagel to succeed in conveying the emotions of joy and hopeless romanticism but alas, Tjernagel manages to surprise here as well. Amidst all the chaos and the unexpected twists, there is a barebones story of two people wanting to get together in face of towering odds. Tjernagel handles the delicate subject matter with poise and ensures that this story of unadulterated love is not lost amongst the several competing narrative arcs of the film.
In addition, a romantic comedy set in a small Midwestern town is a nice change of pace for Tjernagel whose filmography is filled with stories of existential crises surrounded by sex clubs and alcohol. While the setting of the film is the film and the film undoubtedly does have the signature Tjernagel traits of sex clubs and alcholism, it feels a little different than the rest. This is, therefore, a welcome change of pace for Tjernagel and it also shows how he continues to mature as a filmmaker. Not only does he explore an entirely new genre, but he also manages to hit a home run while doing so!
Another impressive aspect about the film is its cinematography and much can be said about it. The choice of warm colours perfectly complements the undertones of the story while the shots are framed as if to evoke the feel of a hand held documentary. There is even the signature Tjernagel ‘black and white colour’ montage in there and like all his other films, here too, this palette adds a visual aura to the film that aids it narratively. The black and white colour palette also meshes well with the progression in the love story the film tells; the two protagonists tower over insurmountable odds to fall in love with each other.
The sound mixing and sound editing both works perfectly in tandem and the choice of music selected also helps the overall vibe of the story. In short, all technical aspects of the film exhibit top notch work and every facet of the production works like a well-oiled machine.
To conclude, Don Tjernagel’s ‘Love Struck Sick’ is a charming little dramedy that works on multiple levels. Amidst the dozens of films made by Tjernagel, this one stands out the most as it manages to break the proverbial mould of a standard Tjernagel flick. Anchored by fantastic performances and a sharp script, the film is funny, moving and melancholic all rolled into one. Tjernagel continues to delve into every genre there is and here, he surprises us all with a story that is both heartfelt and inspiring
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ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
Don Tjernagel, born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa, has been doing stand-up comedy since 1997. As a young man, Don played football until sustaining a serious injury during spring practice at the University of Northern Iowa. Don decided to try stand-up on a whim in 1997. Not too long after that Don’s popularity led him to do a show in several Las Vegas clubs such as the Casino Royale Volcano Lounge, Bourbon Street Hotel, The Monte Carlo and the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel.
With the start of his first show at the Casino Royale, Don became the youngest comic to star in his own show on the Vegas Strip. In August of 2003, Don wrote a book about his travels through the country as a comedian. The book, called American Infidel, detailed his observations as a comedian and American citizen (mostly writing about his sex life and women in general, while simultaneously expressing his views on the First Amendment). Don started to record his stand-up in 2008 with his first DVD release, Smut. Don continues to record his stand-up on both DVD and CD. His last release was the DVD Filthy which was released on 12 July, 2011.