A delightful ode to adolescence and the heady mix of first jobs, loves and in this case bikes, Beijing Bicycle unfortunately falters under Xiaoshuai Wang's loose directional style and bland script. In a deceptively simple plot, country boy Guei (Lin Cui), a bike courier, has almost finished paying off his prized silver mountain bike when it's stolen. After scouring Beijing, he finds city boy Jian (Bin Li) riding the bike, claiming that he bought it at a flea market. The pair duel over this symbol of China, as the ownership issue develops into epic proportions.
On the downside, Beijing Bicycle suffers from cringe worthy melodrama (at one point Guei inexplicitly clings to the bike, screaming his head off) and the second act sags to the point where the line “I don't care whose bike this was!” unintentionally strikes a chord. A preposterous series of bike incidents where we see only the bloody, frozen aftermath, also highlight budget constraints.
However, its fascinating insight into Chinese culture, underpinned by glass smooth cinematography and an angelic score, plus the obvious debt the film owes to the Italian neo-realist classic Bicycle Thief, make it well worth a look.