Jae-Young is an amateur prostitute who sleeps with men while her best friend Yeo-Jin "manages" her, fixing dates, taking care of the money and making sure the coast is clear. When Jae-Young... See full summary »
Beijing: young men in packs, machismo, class divisions, violence, and indifference. Guei arrives from the country: toothbrushes, hotel foyers, and Qin, a rich neighbor in high heels, dazzle him. He gets a job as a messenger. The company issues him a bike, which he must pay for out of his wages. When it is stolen, Guei hunts for it. A student, Jian, has it; for him, it's the key to teen society - with his pals and with Xiao, a girl he fancies. Guei finds the bike and stubbornly tries to reclaim it in the face of great odds. But for Jian to lose the bike would mean humiliation. The two young men - and the people around them - are swept up in the youths' desperation. Written by
Browsing through some of the previous comments, it seems many viewers take the movie primarily as an allegory of class clash in Beijing. While the movie does state the contrast with emphasis, it's much more interesting as a story about teens. The title translates literally to "seventeen years' bicycle."
The story is just that. Guo is a young man who earned a bicycle and promptly has it stolen. Through luck and perseverance, he finds it in the possession of Jian, a high school student. Trouble ensues.
I grew up in Taiwan, and I remember kids doing incredibly cruel things to each other. Not so much gunning down classmates but there were plenty of physical and emotional violence. This movie is a powerhouse of insight into the psyche of teenagers. Contemporary Hollywood pumps out teenage movies by the dozen each year, and most simply gloss over the amount of pain and awkwardness adolescence can bring. Beijing Bicycle, on the other hand, can serve as an instructional manual for any high-school bully wannabes on how to reduce the stammering geek next door to a shell of a man.
It's therefore understandable that the movie can be very difficult to watch at moments. Guo suffers humiliation after humiliation, and at times I wondered in frustration what it would take to get him to swing back (the ending provides some answer to that, I think). There is some humor in the movie, and Guo does have the resources to prevail occasionally. If you can stand two main characters respectively passive and oblivious, the story is an incredibly touching one about being young.
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