Elegance Bratton is certainly not the first person to turn to the military to fill a hole in his life. But the filmmaker also knew he had a boot camp story that hadn’t been told a dozen times before. His feature debut, “ The Inspection,” is an intensely personal and truthful, if not entirely fact-based, account of joining the Marines as a gay Black man in the “don’t ask, don’t tell" era.
It is the type of film — brave, raw and poetic — that will rightly put Bratton on the map as someone to watch, not to mention the standout performances of Jeremy Pope and Gabrielle Union.
Pope plays the Bratton stand-in Ellis French, a quiet soul who has run out of options. A gut-wrenching early scene lets the audience know that he is not really welcome in his mother’s apartment. He knocks on the door, flowers in hand, and she opens it only as far as the chain latch will go. When she reluctantly lets him in to the cluttered space, she places a newspaper on the couch before he can sit down. She is, we understand, disgusted by her son.
It is a visceral introduction to this fractured family. Ellis is not at all disgusting, of course. He is kind and soft-spoken and eager to please this mother who lives in near squalor, with cardboard boxes and papers and blankets stacked chaotically around, refuses to offer her son anything to eat and can barely look at him without a scowl. Ellis’s visit is two-fold: He needs his birth certificate, but he also wants to tell his mother that the reason is because he’s joining the Marines. He still has hope.
Union gets the tricky task of playing the mother, Inez, who has all but disowned her still-young son for being gay. It is a staggeringly difficult role that Union masters despite just being in a handful of scenes that are the most powerful in the movie. She is an actor who, despite all...