The story begins when Antonio who has been unemployed for several months is allotted a job of hanging posters. Antonio’s initial delight turns to sorrow when he finds that the job requires him to have a bicycle. Maria, his wife(portrayed by Lianella Carell) pawns their household linens so that they can reclaim from the same pawnshop a bicycle. The pawnbroker is seen climbing a huge tower with shelves filled with others’ linens which wordlessly drives home the extent of poverty in Italy.
Things start to look up for Antonio, but tragedy soon strikes when his bicycle is stolen on the very first day of his job by another desperate man. The police are little help and are unable to understand the importance of the bicycle for Antonio and his family. Thus starts a search for his bicycle throughout the streets of Rome aided by his young son Bruno.(played brilliantly by Enzo Staiola).
The father and son begin their search from the bicycle market hoping that the thief had sold it there. Unable to locate it there they continue their search. Fortune favors Antonio as he spots the bicycle thief again but he is unable to catch him. Antonio exhausts all avenues available to him, even seeking guidance from a fortune teller. His frustration accelerates as a result of his inability to retrieve his bike in spite of cornering the thief since there is a lack of evidence.
Throughout their search the dynamics of the relationship between father and son are a treat to watch. Bruno’s innocence...