Somewhere in Queens: Review
Somewhere in Queens Synopsis: Leo (Ray Ramano) and Angela Russo (Laurie Metcalf) live a blue-collar life, surrounded by the big personalities of their overbearing Italian-American family. When their son's chance at a life-changing basketball scholarship is jeopardized, Leo risks everything to help him, but may tear the family apart trying to make it happen.
Italian-American parents Leo and Angela face the unavoidable reality of their son graduating high school in Somewhere in Queens.
Most actors embarking on their directorial debut gravitate towards material that harbors personal resonance. That is certainly the case for Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano with Somewhere in Queens. The Queens, New York native utilizes his history in the area and parental experiences as a guiding light for a coming-of-age parable grounded in equal parts humor and heart.
At first glance, what may appear as a routine narrative comes to life in invigorating ways with Somewhere in Queens. Ramano guides a sincere exploration of coming-of-age milieu that lands several moving tugs at the heartstrings.
Several of Ramano's charms as a performer radiate through his assured writing and directorial efforts. Ramano and co-screenwriter Mark Stegemann excel at cultivating a conversational approach. The duo's sharp wit and eye for authentic character dynamics imbue significant vitality into the film's somewhat commonplace plot dynamics. Whether it's intimate disclosures between Leo and Angela or bustling dinner scenes bolstered by a slew of colorful personalities, Somewhere in Queens never lands a false note.
As a director, Ramano displays veteran poise with his first big-screen project. He forgoes flashy tricks and maudlin swings at soliciting crowdpleasing emotion, instead trusting his material enough to let it speak on its own accord. There is a refreshing gentleness to Somewhere in Queens that really engaged me; the film never hits audiences over the head in what it wants to say about its ensemble of intriguing characters. Moreover, Ramano maintains a firm yet subdued control over the camera that fits the grounded tone like a glove. This approach draws thoughtful ruminations on the complicated push-and-pull of parental guidance, the overbearing dread of mid-life crises, and the lines of misunderstanding between parent and child.
Not all of these elements cohere perfectly onscreen. The screenplay bites off more than it can chew at times, leaving certain subplots feeling undefined in the process. However, the talented ensemble cast helps mask the gaps. Ramano's clumsy charisma is tailor-made as a bumbling father trying to help his son despite good intentions. Laurie Metcalf is a dramatic force of nature in capturing Angela's insular struggles, while Jacob Ward, Sebastian Maniscalco, and Tony Lo Bianco infuse life into their roles as members of the dysfunctional family.
Coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, but Somewhere in Queens settles in its own effective burrow. It's an affectionate slice-of-life tale made with love by Romano and his talented team.
Somewhere in Queens is now playing in theaters.