Somewhere in Queens: Is the Movie Based on Real Life?

‘Somewhere in Queens’ is a drama film that revolves around Leo Russo, a family man who lives a simple life in Queens, New York, with his wife Angela and their son “Sticks.” The three of them are surrounded by Leo’s close-knit Italian-American relatives, all of whom work in the family construction business. Though happy enough with his life, Leo can’t help but wonder what his life could have been like had he made different choices and not gone into the family business with his father and brother.

Leo’s only solace from this constant worry is his son’s basketball games, and when Sticks gets a life-changing opportunity to play basketball in college, Leo jumps at the chance to break the cycle of every man in their family working in the construction business. But things don’t always turn out as planned. Ray Romano’s directorial debut features Ray himself in the leading role of Leo Russo. Joining him are Laurie Metcalfe, Jacob Ward, and Sadie Stanley, among others.

The 2013 film portrays the distinctness of an average American family, with their mannerism and way of life represented with such careful consideration and authenticity that it feels like you’re looking in on your next-door neighbors. Such authenticity warrants the question of whether or not the film has ties to a real-life family. Worry not, for we have the answer!

Somewhere in Not a True Story

No, ‘Somewhere in Queens’ is not a true story. Created from an original script by Ray Romano and Mark Stegemann, it is a fictional account of the day-to-day life of an Italian-American family. However, the storyline was inspired by director Ray Romano’s own life to an extent. In an interview with Rich Eisen on ‘The Rich Eisen Show,’ Romano said, “It’s based on what I was going through…the germ of the story, uh, came from what I was going through at the time my son played for, uh, Campbell Hall here in-in LA with the Holiday brothers…”

He added, “…he played four years with Aaron Holiday, but Drew Holiday had just graduated before that and that was, this was his [Ray’s son] last game and I knew he wasn’t going to play in college, and I got very emotional, man. I got emotional because I loved the experience, and if I’m being honest, I love being the father of the star player. And it was all going to end and that’s what the idea was – what if this was for some guy [for] who that’s all he had; his life was…he felt very small in his real life, he felt invisible and he was living vicariously through this, and-and that was the idea for the story.”

This smallness that Ray mentions in the interview comes out of every pore of the character of Leo Russo in ‘Somewhere in Queens’ – in the way he can’t communicate with his dad, or when he can’t stand up to his brother, Frank (Sebastian Maniscalco), throws around his weight in front of him. This smallness becomes even more pronounced when Leo has to confront his family members and tell them that he wants to send Sticks to college to play basketball. Ray Romano’s acting skills really shine through here, a glimpse of which the viewers have already witnessed in ‘The Irishman.’

Leo’s bumbling nature and his worry about his son’s future make him relatable; it makes him feel human. This same quality is captured in the rest of the characters as well and is depicted through their interactions with each other throughout the film. Something as simple as a family lunch or a conversation in a car gives each and every character a moment to imprint themselves in the viewers’ minds.

At the core of it, ‘Somewhere in Queens’ is a film about families and familial expectations, and about how parents can project their own hopes and dreams onto their kids – sometimes in ways that may not be the healthiest or the most conducive, and creating conflict where there was none before. But more importantly, it is a love letter to all the Italian-American families that live in the United States, and all the parents who go through hell and high water to ensure that their children are dealt a better hand than them in life.

Read More: Best Family Movies on Netflix