Somewhere in Queens proves Ray Romano is a talented actor – and a pretty darn good director

Now available to rent or buy, Ray Romano’s directorial debut Somewhere in Queens follows an overbearing couples’ dreams for their talented son. Luke Buckmaster reviews the earthy, lived-in dramedy.

If you ever find yourself in a conversation about whether Ray Romano is a good actor, here’s a great film to point naysayers to. This absorbingly staged Queens-set drama features the star in a wearied mode, playing Leo, the well-meaning father of a gifted basketball player—Jacob Ward’s Sticks—who has a crack at a college scholarship.

In another actor’s hands, you might dislike Leo for overstepping the mark and meddling with his son’s love life. But Romano brings earnestness and sheer likeability. Despite Leo’s misjudgements you feel for this guy and want the best for him.

Here’s something else to tell naysayers: Romano can direct, too. Somewhere in Queens is the actor and former sitcom star’s directorial debut, bringing slice-of-life vibes and a character-driven approach to a film that genuinely feels like a story from the streets, rising from the working class Italian-American community. All the performances feel lived in and grounded, never in ways that make you feel like you’re watching a self-conscious work of art. Leo and his family probably wouldn’t even know the meaning of “vérité.”

Scenes around the dinner table capture them congregating, squabbling about this and that, and stuffing their faces—meatballs and wine at the ready. These aren’t Somewhere in Queens’ best scenes, but they’re what my mind goes to when recollecting it, which speaks to the film’s unprepossessing vibes. In one such moment, Sticks’ new girlfriend Danielle (Sadie Stanley) joins the dinner table and doesn’t seem remotely daunted. Sticks goes head over heels for her and comes on strong. Danielle’s heart isn’t in it, and she breaks up with him.

This is where Leo’s meddling begins. Behind his son’s back he approaches Danielle and tries to convince her to stay with Sticks a little longer, so as not to rock the boat before the potential scholarship. Leo’s gentle but firm approach contrasts the more highly strung demeanour of his high school sweetheart wife Angela (Laurie Metcalf), who has bull-in-china-shop vibes. Like Romano, Metcalf nails the part—bringing earthy sass to lines like “I’m gonna punch this tramp right in her little bitch face.”

The stakes sound pretty low, right? They are. At least on a societal level. But it’s the personal level Romano’s invested in and the only one that matters. It doesn’t take long for the film to work its modest charms and for the actor/director to hit a sweet spot, balancing realism with the machinations required of interesting drama. Somewhere in Queens might not be a film that lingers vividly in the memory: it’s pretty slight and lowkey. If you need evidence that Romano is both a talented actor and a talented director, however, there’s none better.