Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10)
Finding one’s family may not always occur where one most likely expects it. For many of us, that typically comes with our blood relations. But sometimes circumstances arise that prevent that from happening, as is the case for a twentysomething gay Black man (Jeremy Pope) who has been on his own since age 16 when his close-minded single mother (Gabrielle Union) forced him out onto the streets to fend for himself. And, after years of bouncing around aimlessly, he decides to try getting his act together by joining the Marines, a seemingly unlikely choice but one that unwittingly helps him find what he’s been looking for all along. Writer-director Elegance Bratton’s fact-based debut narrative feature tells a compelling story of acceptance among those from whom it might least be expected and its absence where one would think it should most likely be present. The film’s superb Independent Spirit Award-nominated performances by Pope and Union, along with fine supporting portrayals turned in by other members of the excellent ensemble cast (most notably Bokeem Woodbine and Raúl Castillo), truly give this picture its razor-sharp edge and its touching moments of heartfelt compassion, an unusual mix of elements on the same story, to be sure. In several regards, “The Inspection” also echoes groundbreaking themes first addressed in “Moonlight” (2016), though with slightly different but nevertheless equal significance. Admittedly, the production could probably benefit from a little more back story development and slightly brisker pacing in the first half-hour, but those are truly minor shortcomings in the greater scheme of things where this film is concerned. If this ISA candidate for best first feature is any indication of what we can expect in future works from this filmmaker, I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with.