Plan 75 – Review

Plan 75“No approval need from your doctor or family,” a Plan 75 representative smiles at his elderly customer. In fact, the entire conversation about whether or not you should choose to end your own life in order to stop being an ‘economic burden’ is over in thirty minutes or less. How is that for service?

Director Chie Hayawaka makes her feature-length debut with Plan 75, a film set in a financially crippled Japan. The ageing population are drawing fury from those who are young and still working. The solution? So-called voluntary euthanasia for those aged 75 or over. There’s even 100,000 Yen in it for those who have signed up to enjoy their last days with. “The Japanese have a history of sacrificing themselves,” a voiceover notes in the opening sequence.

Throughout the film, we spend time with three different characters, each of whom has a different connection to the government-backed scheme. There’s Michi (Chieko Baisho), a 78 year old woman who suddenly finds herself even more on the periphery of society. She’s lost her housekeeping job and her apartment block is condemned. What is left for her? Hiromu (Hayato Isomura) works for the Plany 75 incentive. He’s sleek and charming – his friendly demeanour ensures that no one who sits at his desk or pop up stand leaves without signing up. Finally, Maria (Stefanie Arianne) is a carer who needs to find the funds to pay for her daughter’s heart surgery. She goes from helping those in a group care home to emptying the belongings of the deceased within a Plan 75 facility.

From the offset, you feel very protective of the bird-like, vulnerable Michi. She is always shot in shadow, her fragility emphasized in her silhouette. In fact, the first time we see sunlight on her face is when she is headed to a Plan 75 facility. Her housekeeping job leaves her stiff at the end of the day; the small incline in the road up to her apartment becomes a greater struggle each time. Her apartment is sparse and dark; the furniture looks tattered. The camera lingers across the frugality of her existence, zooming in on the isolation of it all.

And that’s what makes Plan 75 so puzzling. All of the elderly characters in the film live so poorly. The thought of a few warm meals and some attention in their final days seems like a real treat to them. It’s heartbreaking to hear them chatter excitedly about the notion of a spa or some money to finally spend.

What takes the film from sad to sinister, though, is how plausible it all feels. None of this feels like too much of a stretch to not be real. It also makes you very suspicious of everyone. Each bowl of soup offered; each kind ear lent – is it all just an act to get another old person to sign their life away? Hayawaka succeeds in creating an atmosphere of distrust very quickly and it soon pervades the entire film.

Plan 75Plan 75 also highlights the overwhelming loneliness and lack of options that come with ageing. No one will hire Michi after she loses her housekeeping job. No family calls to check in. Her job was her social life, as well as much needed income. Even death is a lonely experience – you are just another number in a ward (not at all what the glossy brochure intimated). This is superbly realised by Chieko Baisho, whose performance will make you want to reach through the screen and wrap her up in your arms. She is so childlike in her vulnerability, yet so strong and determined. You can see glimpses of the younger woman she was and the devastating options she has as a fearful and marginalized older woman.

The film benefits from not alluding to some sci-fi future. Instead, it is rooted in reality. This really could be present-day Japan. The characters we encounter aren’t caricatures of evil-doers. They are call centre workers; salesmen; carers. It’s this that lends Plan 75 its truly dark and uncomfortable current. There is a brilliant moment wherein a call centre worker overhears her manager training new starts not to allow the elderly to back out of the programme, even though they are told to repeat the mantra that “your consent can be withdrawn at any time”. She pauses eating her meal, slowly raises her head and looks directly into the camera. A clear look of panic and regret are written stridently across her face. It’s a proper ‘stop and shudder’ moment, well executed and perfectly timed.

Plan 75 is one of these pieces of cinema that will make you think “Could this ever become a reality?” and that is, without doubt, where its success lies. A thoroughly watchable, heartbreaking film from start to finish.

Plan 75 has its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival 2023. Get your tickets here.

Mary Munoz
Follow Me
Latest posts by Mary Munoz (see all)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.