The Inspection is not easy to watch but this is a cathartic piece of filmmaking for filmmaker Elegance Bratton by sharing his story.
Elegance Bratton’s narrative debut takes viewers back in time to 2005. A time when military policy dictated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Say what you will about how homophobic the policy was but it’s either join the military or live on the streets when one is kicked out of their home for being gay. The homophobia in the film is not easy to watch–it’s absolutely brutal–but speaks to both military culture and non-acceptance of LGBTQ children.
Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) has been living on his own since his mom, Inez French (Gabrielle Union) kicked him out at 16 years old. He’s 25 years old and joining the Marine Corps in what feels like a last resort. It’s this or be homeless. Ellis basically makes the best of the situation even has his mother wants nothing to do with him. She’s holding onto his birth certificate, which is essentially the last reminder of her son. When one looks at what Ellis is up against, it’s no surprise to watch him push himself beyond the limits. He has something to prove but again, he’s facing homophobia from his own colleagues. And yet, this does not stop him from being the best Marine that he can be.
Bratton bases French on himself. It is because of the Marines that he became a filmmaker. First, a combat filmmaker and later a documentary filmmaker. And now, he’s telling his story, albeit through narrative storytelling. You can tell that he is pouring his heart and soul into the film. Moreover, he has a story to tell and while it is cathartic in nature, it could certainly save someone’s life. People aren’t going to be in the best position to help others if they can’t even help themselves.
Some takeaways from the world premiere in Toronto: Jeremy Pope turns in a strong performance as Ellis French. Listen, Pope is an actor that needs to be in the conversation for Best Actor. Meanwhile, Gabrielle Union also turns in a solid performance as Inez French and should be on the Best Supporting Actress shortlist. It isn’t lost on me that the actress–the mother of a transgender child–is playing such a homophobic woman in this film. Ultimately, this is a film with a message of acceptance. Your own family might not love you for who you are but your chosen family will. Even when his mom threatens to out him in front of his Marine Corps battalion, they have his back. This is one of those things that certainly seemed impossible early on in the film.
Elegance Bratton isn’t alone in being a gay person to go through boot camp but The Inspection shines a light on what gay people have had to deal with in both the military and their own families. If you have the opportunity to see The Inspection during TIFF, NYFF, or during the theatrical run, you would be doing yourself a big disservice by not seeing the film.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Elegance Bratton
CAST: Jeremy Pope, Jeremy Pope, Raúl Castillo, McCaul Lombardi, Aaron Dominguez, with Bokeem Woodbine and Gabrielle Union
The Inspection holds its world premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival in the Discovery program. A24 will release the film on November 18, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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