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#TIFF22 Review: The Inspection (Discovery)

September 12, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

Documentary filmmaker Elegance Bratton makes his narrative directorial debut with The Inspection, a good autobiographical drama that he wrote based on his own experiences as a young gay black man joining the Marine Corps to try and earn the respect of his homophobic mother.

At the start of the film, Ellis French (Jeremy Pope) is living out of a shelter after being disowned as a teenager by his mother (Gabrielle Union), who is deeply uncomfortable around his sexuality to the point of obsessiveness (when he comes to visit, she even lays out newspaper on the couch before allowing him to sit down). She initially scoffs at the idea of him joining the Marines, but warms up to it in the hopes that it will work as conversion therapy and turn him straight.

The film is at its strongest when detailing the daily struggles that French faces at a time when members of the military were expected to remain in the closet, with other recruits picking up on his sexuality and mercilessly taunting him for it. He struggles to hide his attraction to one of the instructors, Rosales (Raúl Castillo), while pushing himself to meet the gruelling physical expectations of a demanding commander (Bokeem Woodbine) who is determined to turn him into a good soldier.

Bratton’s film does feel a bit short at just 95 minutes. It barely shows any of French’s life before he announces that he is joining the Marines, and the relationship between him and his mother, really the heart of the film, also feels like it maybe needed one or two more scenes to fully flesh it out. As such, the bulk of The Inspection focuses on his actual basic training, and it does a very good job of doing so. But it can make the film feel a bit underdeveloped as a whole, at least from a narrative perspective.

Still, The Inspection serves as a confident and often engaging debut, that is impressively shot by cinematographer Lachlan Milne. If the story itself feels somewhat familiar (Full Metal Jacket is an obvious comparison, but the South African film Moffie detailed a similar experience in a different place and era), Bratton’s film is elevated but its very strong performances. Pope is a magnetic presence in the leading role, compellingly portraying French’s vulnerabilities as well as his determination, and Union is a standout as his mother, with her few scenes leaving an impact that looms large over the entire film.

Public Screenings:

Thursday, September 8th – 8:30 PM at Royal Alexandra Theatre

Saturday, September 10th – 11:30 AM at Scotiabank 2

Friday, September 16th – 11:30 AM at Scotiabank 2

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