MSPIFF42 Dispatch #2: Somewhere in Queens & R.M.N.
This review is part of a series of reviews for the 2023 Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival. You can read more reviews from the festival, along with other reviews from international festivals, here
The Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF, or “Ms. Piff” as it’s said here) is one of the most highly anticipated events in the Midwest for movie enthusiasts and cinephiles. With a rich history spanning over three decades, the festival has become a premier platform for showcasing independent and international cinema, featuring an extensive lineup of thought-provoking, entertaining, and boundary-pushing films from around the world. Every year, the festival attracts a diverse audience, including filmmakers, actors, critics, and moviegoers of all ages and backgrounds, all united in their love for the art of filmmaking.
Because there are so many movies to be watched and covered, I’ve condensed a few titles into these dispatches. My second dispatch for the festival centers on smaller films from around the festival circuit: Somewhere in Queens (Tribeca 2022), and R.M.N. (Cannes 2022).
Somewhere in Queens
After so many years of being lost in the Ice Age films, comedian Ray Romano returns to his Italian-American roots with Somewhere in Queens. Along with starring, Romano also writes and directs this story of a father who lives each week for his son’s high school basketball games. The kid has a bright future on the court, which, by the transitive property, means that his father would be a success as well.
The idea of a parent molding their child into a reflection of themself may not be the most unique theme, but Romano finds both the humor and heart within the situation. Laurie Metcalf plays the mother, bringing great comedic energy and some surprising pathos to a character that easily could have been a throwaway cutout.
It’s by no means a must-see in theaters, nor something you need to rush out and find on streaming, but there’s just enough of everything to make it something you won’t regret investing time and energy into.
Featuring five different spoken languages (Romanian, Hungarian, German, French, English) and characters from all different walks of life, Cristian Mungiu’s newest visual essay tells a universal story within one specific Transylvanian village. Sri Lankan workers have been brought in to work in the local bakery, which upsets the poor locals, with many responding with xenophobic threats and actions.
As is tradition for Mungiu, each scene is realized in unbroken takes, with the climactic town-hall meeting unfolding across 17-minutes as dozens of characters debate the situation. The irony is infuriating for the viewer, as this multi-ethnic community constantly on the fringes of poverty are intolerant to those in the same circumstances, who just happen to have a darker complexion.
Similar to the Dardenne brothers with Tori and Lokita, Mungiu’s penchant for realism is heightened by his observational style, but slightly undone by his script. While there are no clichés, this is a story that has been told time and time again, unfortunately led by the least interesting character of the ensemble. The naturalism is abruptly broken by the ambiguous final shot, leaving you with a disquieting outlook on this specific village, as well as the entire world.