Somewhere in Queens review: Ray Romano’s directorial debut is slight, but moving

Ray Romano returns to his roots in more ways than one with Somewhere in Queens.

In his directorial debut, now playing in theaters, Romano portrays Leo Russo, an Italian American residing in Queens and working for his father’s construction business. Amidst his wife Angela’s (Laurie Metcalf) battle with breast cancer, Leo finds solace in watching his son “Sticks” (Jacob Ward) excel in varsity basketball. When Sticks’s chance at a college scholarship arises, Leo resorts to questionable measures to secure his son’s future.

The warm and vibrant Russo family depicted in Somewhere in Queens could easily be neighbors to the Barones from Everybody Loves Raymond, the sitcom that catapulted Romano to stardom. While Metcalfe’s portrayal of Angela exudes a sterner and deeply Italian persona compared to Patricia Heaton’s character, the essence of the dynamic between a weary homemaker and a bumbling husband remains intact. Additionally, the film mirrors Romano’s sitcom roots with the inclusion of an antagonistic brother and a boisterous, affectionate family deeply involved in each other’s lives, ultimately serving as the film’s beating heart.

Ray-Romano-and-Laurie-Metcalf-in-Somewhere-in-Queens-Photo-Credit_Mary-Cybulski-Courtesy-of-Roadside-Attractions-scaled

In Somewhere in Queens, Ray Romano and co-writer Mark Stegemann craft a portrayal of an Italian American family that diverges from the stereotypical mafia-centric narratives often depicted in media, opting instead for a more relatable and comedic approach reminiscent of Modern Family rather than The Sopranos. Drawing from their own experiences and cultural backgrounds, the Russos are depicted as charming, boisterous, and endearingly nosy—a portrayal that resonates with audiences familiar with Mediterranean traditions of tight-knit family gatherings and Sunday dinners.

From the outset, it’s evident that patriarch Leo Russo (played by Romano) is grappling with a sense of dissatisfaction, channeling his unfulfilled aspirations into his son Sticks. In a narrative twist reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life, Leo’s midlife crisis unfolds through his misguided attempts to shape Sticks’ future, mirroring the journey of self-discovery undertaken by George Bailey. However, the film doesn’t shy away from addressing the ethical complexities of Leo’s actions, particularly in his interactions with Sticks’ former girlfriend Dani (played by Sadie Stanley), adding layers of moral conflict and introspection to the storyline.

Ray Romano in Somewhere in Queens PhotoCredit_Mary_Cybulski

In Somewhere in Queens, Leo’s admiration for Rocky symbolizes his penchant for championing the underdog against life’s adversities. However, unlike the grandeur of a Rocky film, Somewhere in Queens exudes a more understated tone and depth, focusing on themes of parental expectations and the lingering effects of trauma without delving into profound revelations or dramatic confrontations. Romano’s directorial approach, characterized by simplicity and a focus on naturalistic performances, effectively captures the essence of the Russo family’s everyday existence. While lacking in visual spectacle, the film’s portrayal of human relationships and relatable situations resonates with authenticity, grounding its narrative in the familiar dynamics of family life.

Somewhere in Queens. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

While the title of Somewhere in Queens may evoke a sense of place, it’s the performances rather than the setting that truly captivate. From Angela’s heartfelt expressions of concern for her son’s future to Leo’s gradual reckoning with his own values, the cast delivers nuanced portrayals that resonate with authenticity. Sadie Stanley shines as Dani, portraying her inner conflict with subtle gestures and expressions, adding depth to her character’s dilemma.

In an era where mid-budget films are increasingly rare, it’s difficult to dismiss Somewhere in Queens as forgettable. While it possesses a quiet charm and offers poignant reflections on family dynamics and legacy, it doesn’t break new ground or offer revelatory insights. Romano imbues the film with a bittersweet melancholy, reminiscent of the familial dynamics seen in Everybody Loves Raymond, albeit with a more serious tone. Despite its familiarity, the film’s exploration of dysfunction and love ensures its resonance with audiences.

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