The Inspection is an impressive directorial debut that loses its steam but is held afloat by its important thematic discussion of family, sexuality, and moving on.
For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of attending the 22nd Houston Cinema Arts Festival on behalf of The Nerd Corps as part of the accredited press. I loved attending last year and watching films such as Red Rocket and Luchadoras to name a few. It’s definitely hard to hold up this year’s festival to the last as we had a lot of great moments including getting to meet Sean Baker. Nevertheless, that is not to say that this wasn’t a good year for HCAF because the Houston Cinema Arts Society always manages to bring some gems to the Houston Metropolitan area! Opening night included Elegance Bratton’s The Inspection which was quite an underrated film from last year.
The Inspection is written and directed by Elegance Bratton. The film stars Jeremy Pope, Gabrielle Union, Bokeem Woodbine, and Raúl Castillo. The movie’s original score is composed by Animal Collective, and Bratton’s visual aesthetic is provided by the director of photography, Lachlan Milne. This is Elegance Bratton’s feature directorial debut and it is being distributed by A24. This film is special to Bratton as it is inspired by his real-life experiences of being homeless for a decade after his mother kicked him out of their home for being gay.
Elegance Bratton’s film takes a different approach though and showcases the journey of our protagonist Ellis French who joins the Marines after being kicked out by his mother, Ines. Ellis understands that life as an out gay black man will not be easy and the film showcases that notion as it provides obstacle after obstacle for Ellis French to handle. He develops feelings for Rosales and must deal with the toxicity of his fellow marines along with his commanding officer, Laws. Ellis is not the only one to overcome obstacles while in basic training, many of his fellow marines like Ismaili are falling under the pressure put on them. While all this is going on Ellis must also deal with the estranged relationship with his mother and her refusal to see her son as an out gay man.
I wasn’t completely a fan of The Inspection but I found myself really enticed by its visual language, and performances, as a directorial debut there is a lot of promise here for Elegance Bratton’s career. Jeremy Pope along with Gabrielle Union delivers one of last year’s best performances. Their chemistry is unmatched and they are undeniably the film’s standouts including Raúl Castillo. I was in love with the score provided by Animal Collective and felt that it matched the beautiful visual aesthetic provided by The Inspection’s rich lighting. Its story did not completely enthrall me and the pace held it down during the second act, but by the time we reached the concluding act, I was back on board with the film. There’s room for improvement but for his first feature film, Elegance Bratton provides a tense and tender look into a very real issue. The answers aren’t clear to Ellis and Inez’s relationship but sometimes it’s not always up to the son to put in all the effort. The thematic approach makes watching the film well worth the small number of flaws it has.
Watch The Inspection on video on demand through most rental services like Apple TV, Amazon, and YouTube.