Ray Romano’s directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens, is exactly what you would expect a Ray Romano film to be – and that’s not a bad thing. Romano plays Leo Russo, a father who is just trying to help his introverted son – lovingly called Sticks – played by Jacob Ward, finish high school with a little confidence. Leo’s wife, played expertly by Laurie Metcalf, has her own anxieties about her life as a cancer survivor and soon-to-be empty nester. Stick’s social awkwardness takes center stage when his parents meet his surprise girlfriend, Dani, who is far more extroverted than the rest. Played by Sadie Stanley, Dani throws a wrench into their usual routine – but seems to give Sticks a boost of confidence. 

Romano is great at causing secondhand anxiety in his audience while still managing to be likable. Even when we know he’s making questionable choices, there is an innocence and purity to his actions that make us continue to root for him. Romano has had a grip on this quality in his performances, and he uses it perfectly in his directorial debut. It’s almost weaponized at the point Dani attempts to call things off with Sticks, as Leo encourages her to stay with him long enough to ensure he’s focused on his college tryouts. It’s an uncomfortable scene that Leo clearly handles the wrong way, but he convinces us and Dani that it’s not his fault for making such an unreasonable request. 


For much of the film, the anxiety levels get a bit out of control. There are several scenes with the extended family of the Russo’s. Romano plays the older brother, but his younger brother, played by Sebastian Maniscalco, is the second in charge of the family’s construction company. There is clearly tension here, and the family dynamic is inherently overwhelming, as everyone is talking over each other. Dani attends a family dinner, and she pushes back more than the family seems comfortable with – but her demeanor ultimately wins them over. Fortunately, no matter how tense a moment may become, Romano knows comedy and can cut the tension with a well-placed joke. 

The film kept me in throughout, but it wasn’t until the end that it won me over. All the tension and anxieties of the father, mother, and son really take on a new meaning at the end. It is important for a film to have something to say, and the journey our characters go through means something. For me, the last scene not only made all the pieces pop into place but also gave me a new appreciation for the film and my own personal struggles with fear. I’d predicted this film would click for me when I saw the trailer, but there were moments during it where I felt more annoyance than enjoyment. As the credits rolled, I knew I’d made the right choice in giving this a watch. 

People who have enjoyed Romano’s previous work will likely find Somewhere in Queens to be another win. Romano’s humor and outlook on life are present in every scene. Metcalf always delivers, and Ward pulls the awkwardness needed to sell his character. Stanley is charming and has the right chemistry with Ward to sell their relationship. Life is hard, and we are all fighting our own battles with expectations of society, family, and ourselves. This film grapples with that concept, and the conclusion we are offered is probably the most optimistic approach we can take. 

Somewhere in Queens will be in theaters on April 21. 

Rating: Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy

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