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Everybody Loves Ray: Romano’s Film a Feel-Good Winner

Actor Ray Romano, now 65, is best-known for his Emmy-winning role on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” the beloved TV show that ran for more than 200 episodes.

Fans will know that this former stand-up comic can also handle drama (“The Irishman,” for instance) — and that he’s done a good deal of writing too; but the brand-new feature film “Somewhere in Queens” is his first foray as director.

Here’s hoping it will not be his last.

Also co-written by and starring Romano, this engaging and beautifully acted dramedy focuses on a blue-collar family working through various struggles: Mom is recovering from breast cancer and concomitant chemo; Dad has a low-rent job with the family construction firm and feels generally humiliated, the more so because his younger brother is foreman; and their teenage son, nicknamed “Sticks” because of his long legs, is pathologically withdrawn — though he’s a real slam-dunker on the school basketball team and may be looking at a college scholarship.

Sticks has recently lucked out with a smart, lovely and upbeat girlfriend, Dani — though it turns out she isn’t terribly interested in a long-term relationship; and that won’t be good for his fragile self-esteem.

Or his game.

Or his prospects.

That plot probably doesn’t sound like much, but there’s more to the story as it develops; and in any case, Romano has likewise lucked out with a sensational cast — plus a seamless blend of pathos and humor in a story that goes exactly where it needs to.

Romano adds just enough emphasis to the sad-sack persona that always seems to undergird his characters, making Leo enormously engaging.

Newcomer Jacob Ward is spot-on as Sticks, while Sadie Stanley, of TV’s “The Goldbergs,” is similarly sympathetic as Dani. The terrific supporting cast also includes Tony Lo Bianco, Jennifer Esposito, Sebastian Maniscalco and excellent work from Jon Manfrelloti as “Uncle Pete.” (Manfrelloti played the recurring character Gianni in “Everybody Loves Raymond.”)

But cast-wise, Romano’s coup d’etat was snagging Laurie Metcalf to play Leo’s wife. The multi-Tony- and Emmy-winning actress will be instantly familiar from her many titles, including “Lady Bird,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “JFK,” “Roseanne,” all four of the “Toy Story” movies (as Andy’s mother) and the cult-hit series “Getting On.”

Having loved her especially as the nutty neighbor in “Uncle Buck” and also on Broadway opposite Bruce Willis in “Misery,” I consider Metcalf one of our finest living actresses. She’s as good as ever in “Queens” — a seamless blend of subtle nuance and occasional over-the-top craziness.

But what’s perhaps most notable about Romano’s gem is its emotional trajectory, moving from pain and loss through abject humiliation to a letter-perfect finale that lovingly heals all the pain and brokenness.

It will resonate most with older parents and middle-agers wrestling with their own shortcomings and unreached goals — though the Sticks storyline is so well directed that it just might rope in younger viewers too.

The film is currently showing only in theaters but will no doubt start streaming over the summer.