A thought-provoking, if slow-paced, exploration of ageing and voluntary euthanasia in Japan. Read our Plan 75 review.
In Plan 75, a Japanese contender for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, director Chie Hayakawa takes on a bold premise: a parallel-world Japan that encourages its senior citizens, those over 75, to voluntarily end their lives for the greater good of the economy.
This dystopian government scheme, introduced as a solution to the growing societal burden of an ageing population, is a startling reflection of the real-life predicaments many countries face today, including ours.
The film weaves a narrative through three interlinked stories: Michi (Chieko Baisho), an elderly woman persuaded by the media that her self-sacrifice will contribute to the economy; Maria (Stefanie Arianne), a Filipino migrant healthcare worker who finds herself in direct contact with the ‘volunteers’ of Plan 75, and Hiromu (Hayato Isomura), a city official tasked with the grim responsibility of communicating the plan to the public.
While the plot’s undoubtedly compelling, the film suffers from a decidedly slow pace that detracts from its overall impact. It started off so promising but ran out of steam after half an hour. Though endearing, extended sequences dedicated to the charming mundanity of the senior characters’ live often feel irrelevant and overly drawn out.
This emphasis on banal activities and the film’s reluctance to delve into graver issues results in an occasionally distant and cold tone, mirroring the sterile, grey society it depicts.
However, Hayakawa’s film does not shy away from the provocative. It presents a chilling vision of a society where the elderly are treated as animals en route to slaughter while couching the narrative in a distinctly Japanese cultural context that emphasizes familial care for the elderly and the shame of becoming a burden.
This nuanced exploration of cultural attitudes towards ageing adds a poignant depth to the narrative, even if the relationships between the young and old characters could use more detailed development.
Plan 75 is an exceptionally shot film with a fascinating script that, despite its pacing issues, brings to the fore the dignity of human life and the ethical complexities of voluntary euthanasia. While its narrative could have been more robust and its social commentary more powerful, Hayakawa’s film stands as a thought-provoking, albeit unsettling, reflection on the nature of ageing in contemporary society.
This film will linger in your thoughts long after the credits roll, even as you wish for a more satisfying resolution.