REVIEW – “Somewhere in Queens”

Ray Romano has been a household name for quite some time, but I think it’s fair to say that his hit-sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond is what he’s most well-known for.  There are a lot of reasons why that show works, from the simply really solid and consistent writing as well as strong supporting characters and performances – but perhaps the biggest reason that it worked was how relatable it was to so many American families, and a lot of that was in credit due to Ray Romano’s really solid performance as the titular character, and the show drawing inspiration from his comedy that, in turn, draws inspiration from real life. Somewhere in Queens feels somewhat similar in the sense that it works as well as it does due to the authenticity of it all, but it obviously goes the extra mile here and shows Ray Romano in a different light than we’re used to seeing him in.

The film follows Leo Russo (Ray Romano), who lives a simple life in Queens, New York with his family – from his wife Angela (Laurie Metcalf) and his shy but extremely talented son “Sticks” (Jacob Ward), as well as his brothers, sisters, and parents; some of which he works with at the family construction business. With Sticks on the verge of the end of his High School career, Leo makes an effort to go to every basketball game that his son plays in – this leads to a surprising opportunity for Sticks to play basketball in college and get a scholarship, right around the same time that he gets a girlfriend Dani (Sadie Stanley) who he falls head over heels for. Without spoiling too much, all these new opportunities lead to Leo going to extreme lengths to make sure Sticks stays on this path. 

The film is written and directed by Romano, who truly pours his heart and soul into the screenplay. The entire film has such a specific sense of authenticity to it, as if this was truly a passion project for Romano. It’s truly endearing to see how much Romano seemingly pours his own life and experiences into these characters, but also how intricately he depicts Italian culture and how much of an emphasis this film has on family and Queens as a whole. This also really works because of how equally authentic and heartfelt Romano’s performance is, as he really expertly plays a somewhat bumbling but mostly well-intentioned underdog. He brings a lot of restraint to this role, and shows the grey sides to his morale perfectly. His chemistry with Laurie Metcalf is also really fantastic, as she also expectedly turns in a fantastic performance herself. 

Even aside from the heart and authenticity that the film has to offer, it’s also very well written in terms of story and structure. I don’t want to spoil the specifics of where the story goes, but it takes a genuine turn that I wasn’t expecting and makes the characters and situations all the more complicated than you’re used to seeing with these types of independent “dramedies” – I was a bit nervous by the introduction of this side of the film, but as it progressed, I found that Romano actually balanced it fairly well and it really worked in the films’ favor by the end. 

There isn’t a whole lot wrong with Somewhere in Queens, although at times it feels like the ceiling it sets for itself is only moderately high. While it’s no game-changer in terms of independent comedies/dramas, it feels as authentic and heartfelt as you’d hope and expect it to. For a directorial debut, Ray Romano shows a ton of passion and promise behind the camera – I’d love to see what else he turns out someday, but for now, Somewhere in Queens is an incredibly solid and sweet film to start off with.


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