It’s always tragic when we lose an artist before his time. One is left wondering whether somehow they completed their mission on the earth, or whether there was much more left for them to say. In the case of Bronx-born Boricua Joseph Vásquez, who brought us his raw and sensitive vision of multicultural New York in Hangin’ With the Homeboys, one can’t help but feel that we lost a powerful and original Latino voice just as he was poised for artistic maturity. But luckily for fans of his work, we are going to be treated to one last statement from Vásquez a full twenty years after his death in the form of The House That Jack Built: a feature based on an original screenplay for a project Vásquez had the pleasure of completing before his death.
Directed by Miami-born Henry Barrial and starring Brooklyn Boricua E.J. Bonilla (Don’t Let Me Drown) and Melissa Fumero (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), The House That Jack Built takes us back to Vásquez’s native South Bronx where a young hustler has the pleasure of moving his whole family into a small apartment building he buys with the cash made selling weed out of a corner storefront. Tensions rise when the young man feels increasingly entitled to call the shots in his family life, while his secret business arrangement rapidly begins to unravel.
The trailer showcases strong performances from the sprawling cast and convincing family chemistry, with an authentic take on the emotional highs and lows of Latino family life. A typical gritty New York aesthetic complete with shaky handheld camera work seems to effectively capture the film’s setting without offering up anything particularly new or fresh stylistically. In the end, it may be Barrial’s film, but we get one last chance to savor Vásquez’s unique vision of family and friendship in Puerto Rican New York.
Now, two years after its festival premiere, The House That Jack Built will finally have a theatrical release.