Two adult people give a confused look toward someone off camera. They are in a high school hallway.

Film Review: Somewhere In Queens

Film Reviews

Somewhere In Queens
Director: Ray Romano 

Papa Al Productions and Bonafide Productions
In Theaters: 04.21

It’s hard to say which is more intimidating between being a young person on the cusp of adulthood or being middle aged and facing the very real possibility that you failed in preparing your child for adulthood. While Ray Romano’s directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens, is hardly the first movie to tackle these themes, it’s one of the best in recent memory.

Leo Russo (Romano) is a simple guy living a simple life in Queens. He lives with his wife, Angela (Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird, The Conners), and their son, (Jacob Ward) whom they call “Sticks” due to his long legs. Leo raised Sticks using the mantras “fight till the end” and “believe in yourself” in both sports and life. The introverted and anxiety-ridden Sticks has blossomed in high school, finding popularity thanks to his status as a star player on the basketball team. Leo is at every game, cheering his son on from the sidelines. In turn the crowd has taken to cheering on Leo, viewing him as a good luck charm. 

Sticks is thriving for the first time in his life, partly due to his excitement over his new girlfriend, Dani (Sadie Stanley, Kim Possible, The Goldbergs). When an opportunity comes along that may mean a chance for Sticks to play college ball, Leo seizes the opportunity to make a bright future for his son, going to any length to ensure his son’s happiness and confidence.

Somewhere in Queens is a rare film that runs the gamut of human emotions, portraying each one with honesty, pathos, laughter, tears and profundity. Romano, who was only a passable actor when his classic sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond premiered in 1996, went on to achieve acclaim for his performances in The Big Sick, the television version of Get Shorty and Martin Scorsese’s film The Irishman. As a director and screenwriter, Romano sticks to what he knows best and concentrates his story around family, sports and Italian-American communities, and it may seem like Romano plays it safe by sticking to familiar territory. The difference comes in the approach, as the low-key, in-the-moment storytelling finds a maturity that rises far above any sitcom. The themes of coping with debilitating fears for yourself and those you love, as well as selfishness and regret, are handled with tenderness and humor.

Romano delivers a career-best acting performance, anchoring the film with his goofy charm and a surprising depth. Unlike the character he portrays, however, Romano the writer-director recognizes that this isn’t all about him. Metcalf could turn a car commercial into a master class in finding truth in comedy. Angela is an intricately layered character, battling the trauma of surviving cancer. Stanley is a magnetic presence with major star potential, and at times she’s tasked with driving the film every bit as much as Romano. Ward’s gripping, heartfelt and disarmingly subtle portrayal of the troubled, good-hearted Sticks raises Somewhere in Queens to true greatness. He should be a dark horse Oscar contender for this breakthrough performance. 

Somewhere in Queens easily ranks among the best films of 2023 so far and has the heart of a contender. Like Rocky Balboa himself, Somewhere in Queens has all of the right elements to greatness and immortality. –Patrick Gibbs

Read more movies involving Ray Romano:
Film Review: Bad Education
Sundance Film Review: The Big Sick