To cope with an ageing population the Japanese government, in a not too-distant future, instigates Plan 75. The scheme gives 1,000 dollars to anyone over the age of 75 who volunteers to be painlessly put to sleep.
Volunteers are called upon to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the nation and for their grandchildren. The film focuses on five main characters. There is 78-year-old Mishi Kakutani (Chieko Baisho) who lives on her own in a small flat and works as a cleaner in a hotel, and Yukio Okabe (Taka Takao) a single, soon-to-be 75-year-old man, both of whom intend to embrace the scheme.
The other three main characters are involved in the operation of the scheme. Maria (Stephanie Ariane) a young mother who needs better wages to pay for an operation for her daughter is employed to collect and sort out the possessions of the dead, Hiromu (Hayato Isomura) encourages new recruits to join the scheme and Yoko (Kawai Yuumi) gives telephone advice and support to volunteers before their termination date.
Yukio is quite accepting of his fate and seems to have totally given up on life. When Hiromu finds out Yukio is an estranged Uncle he offers him the opportunity to rethink his decision. Mishi’s decision is made due to the lack of employment opportunities and a place for older people in society, even her own flat is about to be demolished. Unlike Yukio she begins to see that there is still some joy in life especially when she speaks to Yoko on the telephone. These interactions cause both Hiromu and Yoko to rethink and examine their role in this scheme.
Following the lives of the characters, director Chie Hayakawa etches out their lonely and isolated existence and teases out the flaws and moral dilemmas in the campaign. She says that her intention is to make us consider:
“Would you rather live in a society that offers the option of death to those who have difficulty living, or a society that helps them live together? I prefer the latter.”
The viewer is very much left to make-up their own minds about this way of tackling the issue of an ageing population. In the film, Plan 75 is so successful that there are thoughts of reducing the age to 65 and it does make you wonder where such a solution to social problems might end.
The most frightening aspect of the termination of citizens on a voluntary basis as depicted in Plan 75 is that it is carried out in such a plausible, well-meaning, methodical and bureaucratic manner. Ultimately, the film is a slow, cold, hard look at the impact of voluntary euthanasia that shows what happens when people are treated like disposable objects rather than unique living beings.
Plan 75 is screening at Plymouth Arts Cinema from Friday 19th May – Thursday 25th May 2023
Reviewed by Nigel Watson
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