A24’s new movie “The Inspection” follows a young Marine forced to contend with homophobia while at boot camp in South Carolina. The movie — which stars Jeremy Pope as Ellis French and Gabrielle Union as his mother, Inez — traces its protagonist’s experiences in the military, including a brush with death during a hazing from his training officer and another recruit.
The film is based on the true story of Elegance Bratton, who directed the film and wrote its script based on his own life experiences. According to a Nov. 17 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Bratton was kicked out of his house for being gay at the age of 16. After nearly a decade of homelessness, he chose to enlist in the Marines, which was employing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy at the time. The policy, which ran from 1993 to 2011, permitted queer people to serve in the military — as long as they remained in the closet.
As a Marine, Bratton served as a camera production specialist and made short films for the military. He went on to study at Columbia University and then at NYU Tisch’s graduate film program, where he wrote “The Inspection.”
While many of the movie’s events are based on Bratton’s life, his relationship with his mother is one of the most true-to-life aspects, as the conversations included in “The Inspection” are based on real ones. In real life, Bratton never made up with his mother, who died shortly after A24 green-lit his movie.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to resolve anything,” Bratton told the Los Angeles Times. “This is why I’m so grateful to Gabrielle Union, because she helped to bring my mother back to life for me and provide, on a personal level, some closure that my mother couldn’t provide me in her lifetime. My mom was a very complicated woman — she was the first person to ever love me completely. She was also the first person to ever reject me wholly.”
Some of “The Inspection” is fictionalized, including the brutal hazing Pope’s Ellis undergoes after his sexuality is revealed. While Bratton himself wasn’t hazed, he did say that many military members did face that type of violent discrimination.
On the other hand, the support and purpose Ellis eventually finds in the military do reflect Bratton’s real experiences. “I really did believe that I was worthless because of my sexuality,” Bratton added. “I had no place in the world. As a Black gay kid, it felt like any door I tried to walk through, I was met with some form of hostility or ostracism. I thought, ‘There’s nothing for me in this world. I’m going to die young anyway, like all my friends did, so I’ll die in a uniform.’ I was fortunate enough to have a drill instructor say, ‘Your life is valuable because you have a responsibility to protect the Marine to your left and to your right.’ That responsibility was transformational.”
“The Inspection” is now playing in theaters.