The Inspection

The relationship between church and state is an interesting one, but when you aren’t part of a heteronormative world, it becomes a major obstacle to worship or serve your country. It’s no secret that many faiths don’t accept the LGBTQ+ community, and when worshippers are openly gay, they are often shunned. This dilemma is highlighted in Sharon Lewis’ documentary, With Wonder, which specifically focuses on POC. Similarly, when you want to serve your country, but your sexuality isn’t accepted within the very institution that protects your civil rights as a citizen, that too is an experience shrouded in secrecy, shame and suffering. In The Inspection, director Elegance Bratton shares his real-life struggles to serve his country, overcome homophobia in the military and make something of himself.

It’s 2005, and Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) is a 25-year-old man without a job and nowhere to live. His mother, Inez (Gabrielle Union), can’t stomach that he’s gay, but his unconditional love for her keeps them in contact. His goal to join the marines takes him to visit his mom to get his birth certificate, where she shows her distaste for his life plans and sexuality. With nothing to lose, Ellis is shipped off to training camp, where he encounters drill sergeants Laws (Bokeem Woodbine) and Morales (Raul Castillo), who put recruits through gruelling exercises to make them marines.

Ellis hides his gay identity, but his body betrays him, and when his fellow soldiers discover he’s gay, homophobia reigns supreme as he’s tormented and ostracized. Ellis must persevere in the military since giving up and dying is not an option.

(L-R) Jeremy Pope, Raúl Castillo THE INSPECTION. Credit: Patti Perret/A24 Films

I’m sure the parallels between the 1982 hit An Officer and A Gentleman can be seen here, but this true account of how director Elegance Bratton trained to be a marine while being Black and gay is an experience that is new to many audiences, especially since his happened during the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” era. In the press notes, Bratton mentions how not enough queer stories in the military have been told and hopes The Inspection will help those who have never spoken out about their experiences being a part of the LGBTQ+ community and serving their country.

Pope, who played Jackie Wilson in the Oscar-nominated One Night in Miami, Christopher in the hit series Pose, and garnered critical acclaim for his role in the Netflix series Hollywood, is a pleasure to watch, with his handsome face fully vulnerable in many scenes. Film and TV veterans Union and Woodbine play well opposite him as two forces he must overcome to reach his goals.

Bratton shows competent filmmaking with much heart for his first feature film, which had its world premiere at TIFF last year in 2022, and it’s not surprising since he directed the award-winning Pier Kids, and created and executive produced the hit series My House. His vulnerability and strength to tell his own story in The Inspection will hopefully open the door for new, underrepresented voices to tell theirs, inspiring those who feel alone in situations where their LGBTQ+ identities aren’t accepted.

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