Ray Romano has made a career out of being exasperated by an over-bearing family. So, it would have been easy for Somewhere in Queens to play like a slightly more adult version of an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. Luckily, that’s not what Romano has on his mind, with the result being a very accomplished and lived in filmmaking debut. Comedy, drama, and family dynamics merge into something that consistently entertains, while never losing sight of its goals. Emerging as one of the highlights of the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival so far, Somewhere in Queens is a winner. If Romano wants to have a future behind the camera on the big screen, he’s going to get more opportunities, mark my words.
Somewhere in Queens has a number of things to say about family, middle age, and first love, which is a lot to pull off, but Romano has a deft touch. Aside from the film running a little bit too long and inevitably leading to conflicts that could have been avoided, there’s very little to complain about. It’s just a real good movie, plain and simple.
Leo Russo (Romano) and Angela Russo (Laurie Metcalf) are married high school sweethearts, surrounded by their large and often overbearing Italian-American family in Queens. Their son Matthew (Jacob Ward), better known as ‘Sticks’ to everyone, is very quiet, but is the star of his high school basketball team, which gives Leo an immense sense of pride. Leo lives in the shadow of his brother (Sebastian Maniscalco) and father (Tony Lo Bianco), who run the family construction business, while Angela is a cancer survivor. It’s a simple existence, though one that Leo is chafing at, as we come to find out when a college scout takes notice of Sticks.
Seeing this opportunity for Sticks as a way to have his moment in the son as well, Leo begins interfering in his son’s life, especially when it comes to his new relationship with an outspoken girl named Dani Brooks (Sadie Stanley). Dani brings out Leo in a way that no one else does, especially his family. It all gets messy, of course, but the interpersonal dynamics remain a major highlight throughout.
This cast is just a delight to spend time with. Ray Romano gives himself a leading but never overly showy role, which in turn allows others to shine. Laurie Metcalf does so much with her role, providing big laughs and the emotional center of the picture. Another standout is Sadie Stanley, who is an absolute spark-plug, livening up an already lively flick. Jacob Ward is very quiet, but fits perfectly as Romano’s son. In addition to the aforementioned Tony Lo Bianco and Sebastian Maniscalco, supporting characters include P.J. Byrne, Jennifer Esposito, Jon Manfrellotti, and many more, with everyone having at least one moment to shine.
Making his filmmaking debut by co-writing with Mark Stegemann and directing, Romano really scores here. His direction is smooth, if simple, while the screenplay is a true winner. Not only is it really funny, it’s warm and real, despite the plot going into overdrive at times. You buy every single dynamic of this family, as well as the Dani and Sticks relationship. The script, alongside the performances, truly stand out. Plus, Romano ends Somewhere in Queens on an incredibly funny line from Metcalf, and that just sends you out on a great note.
Somewhere in Queens suggests a strong cinematic future for Ray Romano as a storyteller. I’d be surprised if this doesn’t wind up being one of the better Tribeca titles this year. From top to bottom, it has got the goods, making for a really enjoyable watch. Small quibbles aside, Romano really does pull off something lovely here.