‘The Inspection’ Ending, Explained: Did Ellis’ Mother Accept Him In The End?

A24’s “The Inspection” is a memoir by Elegance Bratton, which recounts his 3 months at boot camp as a black gay man. It’s a fairly simple story with a lot of feelings to unpack. Over all else, it is a compelling directorial debut. “The Inspection” is a film about survival in an absolutely unyielding manner. While we’ve seen a dozen films like this in the past about boot camps and the Marine Corps, this particular one is nuanced by the fact that it comes from personal experience. Bratton’s delivery is intimate, and every cast member plays an amazing part in making it all come alive, especially lead Jeremy Pope. Let’s break down the important questions of “The Inspection.”

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Spoilers Ahead


‘The Inspection’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?

The film follows a 25-year-old gay black man, Ellis French, in 2005. Ellis’s mother has cut ties with him over the fact that he’s gay, and he’s been homeless since he was 16. At the beginning of “The Inspection,” we see him leave the homeless shelter and reach out to his mother. It is very clear that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with her son. In a dirty apartment where she’s smoking, she places sheets of newspaper on the couch for Ellis to sit on. He asks her for his birth certificate because he wants to join the Marine Corps. His mother doesn’t believe him at first, but she tells him that if he wants her to accept him, he “needs to return as the boy she gave birth to.” Ellis pays no heed to this and leaves. Over the next 3 months or so, we see how Ellis handles Marine Corps boot camp in order to make his mother proud.

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Unfortunately, at boot camp, things don’t go smoothly for Ellis. Once his fellow candidates and drill instructors find out about Ellis’ sexuality, everything starts to become more difficult for him at boot camp. Ellis gets beat up by his homophobic fellow recruits after a shower, where things go wrong because he gets lost in his head a little bit. Ellis is determined to survive and push through this experience. Over the months of training, we see Leland Laws, the drill instructor, try really hard to break Ellis’ determination and reach unfathomable levels with his “training.” But we see Ellis come back stronger after every bruise. His fellow candidates throw homophobic slurs at him, even throwing him out of the camp after beating him up. Ellis then fights back by showcasing his skills in the race to become a troop leader. Ellis becomes friends with Ismail, the Muslim candidate who gets shunned for his religion. Every recruit brings different values with them, and we see them grow as human beings through the course of time.


What did Ellis Want To Prove To His Mother? What Had Happened Between Them?

Ellis has been abandoned by his mother since he was 16. Owing to her traditional mindset and being a single mother, she can not accept Ellis’ sexuality. He has been living in terrible conditions at homeless shelters.  Now he’s 25 and has nothing else going for him, he feels the need to prove himself to his mother, even in some ways, learn to protect himself. He feels the uniform will play a huge part in this. It is evident that Ellis loves his mother deeply and no matter how much she hurts him, he will keep coming back for her. Ellis doesn’t break at boot camp because there can be nothing more painful to him than his own mother’s abandonment. 

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Why Did Ellis Feel Attracted To Rosales? What Does It Tell US About Rosales And Ellis?

After French is thrown out of the dorms, he’s mistreated by two particular fellow recruits, including the troop leader Harvey. Harvey’s a homophobic and xenophobic bully who is determined to make life miserable for French. Because of Harvey, Ellis is made to eat a fly, do extra rounds, get yelled at by the drill instructor, and worse. A silver lining in all of this is Officer Rosales, who helps Ellis cope with the trauma and hate he’s receiving. Rosales is patient and kind to him. Unfortunately for Ellis, the world is so filled with the idea that straight men can’t be nice (toxic masculinity and all) that he mistakes Rosales’ kindness for something more, like the overtures of a gay man. Rosales doesn’t reciprocate these feelings; of course, he’s just being kind to a mistreated trainee. During an exercise on how to save a drowning man, Laws explains that a drowning man is the most dangerous because he will fight you while being saved. Saying that, he practically drowns French, and French can’t take it anymore.

French openly asks the trainer where he can report this after being saved by Rosales. Laws tells him he can do anything he wants, but nothing will change. French is furious, but Rosales tells him to leave together. In the car, Rosales asks French what it is that makes him want to be a marine. Ellis replies that if he died in uniform, it would mean something to people. He always felt like he was going to die soon, considering the conditions he lived in, being both homosexual and black. Along with trying to pull his mother out of all her prejudices, Ellis wants to be someone in his community for his people. Later, after the drowning incident, when Rosales talks to Laws, he tells him he admired Laws because he had seen so much in his lifetime. But after seeing his behavior with Ellis, he realized Laws was just a bully. Laws asks Rosales what he’s doing at the marine corps. Rosales replies that he took an oath to make the weak strong. To which Laws replies he is here not to make them strong but to make monsters.

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How Feeling Of Abandonment And Loneliness Help Ellis To Relate To Ismail?

In one of the rounds of learning, Laws places Ismail as the target, telling the recruits to aim their guns at him because their enemies “would look a lot like him.” One of the recruits, Label, refuses to aim because they were told never to shoot at their own but to protect the man on their left and right. Along with French, Ismail gets a lot of hate from the troop. When the troop is in church, he can’t take it anymore and walks out when the father asks to join hands in prayer. French follows him out and hears him crying in the bathroom. Ismail tells him to go away, but French won’t listen.

Ismail confides that he feels like nothing that he will ever do can change the mindset of the people. that he always remains the “enemy.” French, understanding this feeling very well, consoles him rather than telling him things will change. He gives him a hug, and Ismail talks about wanting to go home, which makes French tear up as well. What is home to him? It’s not the homeless shelter, but it’s not his mother’s home, either. Maybe these people will be his family.  Ismail and Ellis always get along as the outcasts and hold each other’s hands when needed. They leave the chapel then, saying they’re not Christians. French, of course, has no faith in the religion that made his mother hate him.

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‘The Inspection’ Ending Explained: Why Did Ellis’ Mother Never Accept Him?

French asks Rosales if he can make a phone call to his mother because he’s been writing to her, but she hasn’t replied to even one letter. French is worried something may have happened to her. Rosales obliges and gives him access to the phone. Ellis calls his mother at work, which she doesn’t appreciate. She thinks he’s calling because they kicked him out. He asks her to attend his graduation, which she isn’t very keen on doing. At the end of the film, it is Ellis’ graduation. His mother actually shows up. She thinks twice before heading in, but when she sees him, she’s proud. Ellis is now a graduate of the Marine Corps. At the troop dinner, everyone has their meals with their loved ones. Ellis sits across from his mother, and they discuss trivial things like if the lobster is fake or real. Ellis’ mother asks what his plan is next, and he says he has one month until going onto the field. He’s going to find a place to stay, maybe near her, so he can see her more often. She says she wouldn’t mind if he came to stay with her.

Ellis is thrilled until she says there will be a line of pretty girls to see her son in a uniform. Ellis is disappointed and says being a soldier did not make him straight. His mother can’t believe what he’s saying and causes a scene in front of everybody. Laws comes down and asks what the problem is, to which she says, “Ellis is gay, so why did they even let him in?” Laws replies—that it was neither for him to ask nor for Ellis to tell. The recruits start chanting “Oorah” to support Ellis, and his mother runs out. He follows her out. Her mother tells him that she was just 16 when she had him and chose to stick with him. She asks him what happens to the things she wants in life. Ellis tells her that he will never give up on them because she is his as much as he is hers. He asks her to write to him if she ever feels like it. She replies she will always love him but never what he is.  Ellis’ mother never accepted him for who he was, whatever he did, the fact that he remained gay never changes. 

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Sadly, this is the bitter truth for many homosexuals in the world. When Ellis steps out for some fresh air, he looks into a mirror in his uniform. A black officer comes up to him and thanks him for his service. He finally feels pride for what he’s achieved. Even though his mother couldn’t accept him, he could survive and grow in boot camp, making a new family of support and a community that was his. 


What Happened To Ellis In Real Life?

Elegance recounts that if there is something absolutely true about this film, it is the interactions between Ellis and his mother. He has dedicated to his own mother because he wants her to see him everywhere. Although he was never hazed in the marine corps himself, he believes this was a story that hadn’t been told much. The LGBTQ+ had worked in silence in the military for a long time with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ becoming prevalent in the 1990s. Elegance began his journey of filmmaking when serving as a Combat Camera Production Specialist back in the day.

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See More: ‘The Inspection’ True Story, Explained: Is Ellis French A Real Person Or A Reflection Of Elegance Bratton’s Life?


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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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