Austin Film Festival 2022: THE INSPECTION

Writer/director Elegance Bratton uses his first narrative feature film to tell his true story. Bratton, who had a rough life as a gay man raised by an ultra-conservative mother, found himself homeless and struggling to survive as a young adult. Totally lost and not knowing what to do with his life, he decides to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. In doing so, Elegance hoped to gain the respect and love he craved from his mother, but he also saw serving as an opportunity to set his life on a stronger, more positive path. The Inspection is a slightly fictionalized version of Elegance Bratton’s experiences just prior to and during his basic training in the Marine Corps. It is a powerful and emotionally charged journey that is sure to inspire people who cannot relate to or connect properly with the parents who raised them.

Jeremy Pope stars as Ellis French, a protagonist who (exactly like Bratton) has been homeless since getting thrown out of his home by his mother Inez (Gabrielle Union). Inez refuses to acknowlede that her son is gay and would rather exclude him from her life than accept him for who he really is. Desperate for a brand new restart in his life, Ellis joins the Marine Corps. While the Marines is already a physically demanding and psychologically challenging undertaking, training as a Marine is so much more difficult for a gay man. Nevertheless, Ellis remains determined to complete the program, regardless of the prejudice that he certainly encounters. Thankfully, one of his sergeants (Raul Castillo) recognizes French’s worth and encourages him to persevere.

Even though The Inspection has much in common with other similar stories of military training, this movie is special in that it shows that regardless of one’s background, strength and character will drive anyone to succeed. Filmmaker Elegance Bratton tells his very personal story with great confidence and conviction.  It is an inspiring story that’s heartbreaking at times. but ultimately empowering. The solid writing and direction by Bratton shows that the filmmaker is capable exceptional work.

The same tenacity and determination helped get this movie made and also got the attention of the great cast members. All of these talented performers who, obviously, fell in love with the script, perform with much heart and soul. As drill instructor Rosales, Raul Castillo displays much strength, but also shows great empathy as the sole trainer who has French’s best interests in mind. As the more hardened and prejudiced head drill sergeant Leland Laws, Bokeem Woodbine shows the raw, ugly face of the Marine Corps and shows little mercy in his training. As Inez French, Ellis’ mother, Gabrielle Union is both hateful, but also pitiful as a very ignorant mother who simply cannot see how amazing a son she has.

And as Ellis French, the stand in character for Elegance Bratton, Jeremy Pope is outstanding, and gives a triumphant performance. In his portrayal of Ellis, he brings much heart and strength, but also beautifully shows his character’s more vulnerable, softer side. I am mostly unfamiliar with Pope, but he is definitely on my radar now and I look forward to seeing him in other roles.

I also feel the same for the talent of Elegance Bratton. As he shows great skill and passion with his personal story, I would love to see what other kinds of stories he can handle. Though not exactly a bonafide cinematic experience, I still highly recommend The Inspection. If just for the opportunity to support great stories like this one, I encourage my readers to spend some money to watch it in a theater.

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