French queer drama Eastern Boys is constructed from four vignettes, each revolving around the titular group of illegal immigrants under the thumb of a charismatic leader dubbed “Boss” (Danill Vorobyov, whose performance is the best thing about the film). They spend their days loitering idly in train stations or hotels while dabbling in theft and prostitution. The film’s second chapter centres on an incredible dance/robbery sequence that promises great things for the story that follows.
Sadly, the next chapter backslides into an unconvincing romance between one of the boys (Kirill Emelyanov) and a wealthy john (Olivier Rabourdin), defined by rote dialogue and blandly affectless performances. The intent of the third chapter – to observe as an erotic relationship cools into a paternal one – is potentially interesting, admittedly. However its execution is lacking, and it ultimately feels motivated by ethical, rather than dramatic necessity.
Eastern Boys found some traction in its final minutes, but by then it had largely lost my interest. The overlong runtime didn’t help, while the queer themes amounted to nothing substantial. I do suspect that there’s an allegorical resonance to be found in the screenplay – Russia and Ukraine, perhaps? – but it doesn’t justify the film’s plodding middle quadrants.