Ray Romano has gone to excessive efforts to leave Everybody Loves Raymond behind him. He will forever be defined by it, despite his against-typecast turn in The Irishman and his step behind the camera for Somewhere in Queens. Both bring out the best in Romano as a creative force, an unsung and rare charm which captures his idiosyncrasies and nervousness. Or at least, he projects it well enough and, ironically, with real confidence. New York is still loved, even if Woody Allen ditched it during a time when he was more of an acceptable watch. Even LCD Soundsystem find fondness and warmth in the city which brings them down. Somewhere in Queens chases the same feeling, the same ballast present in family life as it is in the city which never seems to stop pushing them down.
Romano, starring and directing this, as well as penning it with Mark Stegemann, has hit on something charming. He is the last man standing when it comes to light Big Apple dramas. Family man Leo Russo (Romano) is hellbent on giving his son the best chance possible and the warmth which flows from that dedication is wonderful. Laurie Metcalf is a standout as Angela Russo too. Pride is shown in likeable ways, never aggressive in its exposure and well-adapted where skill meets the high expectations of a father hellbent on proving his somewhat ignorant relatives wrong. Reality sometimes breaks a few heads, and where Somewhere in Queens has tender performances from Romano and Metcalf, who have such incredible chemistry here. It is the silence between them, that knowing part in the back of their mind, which reflects their characters’ long and winding years together.
Heartwarming in all the right places and with a family value present which sees the sacrifice of parents seemingly pushed back by quiet and misunderstood kids. But their actions are not quite the desires of what an individual wants. Romano is smart with this; he portrays Leo’s projection as a selfless desire rather than a fear of the future. Jacob Ward and Sadie Stanley are a fantastic pairing, which Romano nicely likens Rocky. It is the desire to break from the family values and traditions which the Russo pair provide. Hoping for something better for the next generation. Tender scenes between Leo and Sticks (Ward) are par for the course but there is real passion underlying them, a hellbent desire from the former to provide what he perceives as the best course of pursuing a potential dream for the latter. But Romano makes it clear he is not guided by fame or success in the next generation but by what he perceives as an escape from something which leaves him dissatisfied.
Still, American sports feature the worst chants of all. Utterly empty of emotion. They believe they will win. Part of Somewhere in Queens takes the mentality, the earnest simplicity of it, and flies on through. Heartbreak in sport but loneliness at the low points. Even then, a pursuit of a hobby as a career is dangerous and the more Somewhere in Queens spins on through, the harsher it gets. Family drama, some need to speak up and out for individuality, is buried in this feature and Romano does well to dig deep and showcase it. Not just through his nicely-timed writing, decades of comedic experience come in handy through that, but also in his directing style. His ever-so-slightly shaking camera, the spiral and unravelling of a family unit. A little melodrama adds a nice layer to the series of moving parts. Romano and Metcalf helm a real, moving piece which slots viewers in and out of average family life.