I like the simplicity of the story, but it's constantly in the shadow of (the far superior) Bicycle Thieves. There's too many annoying moments in the narrative where the main character doesn't explain a misunderstanding (which may well resolve a conflict). This draws out the already thin story, but, to the film's credit, it's executed with solid direction.
What a bunch of delinquents, the characters feel very one-dimensional. In a way communicates passion. Determination. Survival instinct. But hard to connect with. Beijing bicycle symbol of freedom and independence. My heart goes to country boy Guei, the only one with any integrity.
Recent period piece:Beijing at a cross-roads: bicycles still dominating the roads, labyrinthine hutongs and migrants struggling to make ends meet. The bicycle is both symbolic and also a very real tool of social empowerment. Obvious allusions to The Bicycle Thieves, but works very well decontextualised as a study of the struggles to survive, be accepted and reach self-realisation in a competitive and hostile world.
It makes such a big effort in being a touching film at any cost just to get the inmediate emotional favor of the audience. "Beijing Bicycle" or "Bicycle of the seventeen years" can't go very deep and it finally remains only on what's visible from the iceberg of social/individual issues: the mere anecdote with no other contribution.