Plan 75  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Chie Hayakawa, Japan/France/Philippines, 2022, 113 mins, in Japanese with subtitles

Cast:  Chieko Baisho, Hayato Isomura, Stefanie Arianne, Yumi Kawai

Review by Carol Allen

Japan, like many other contemporary societies, has an imbalance of elderly people in the population, exacerbated by the fact that inadequate pensions and welfare plans force many of the country’s elders to continue working.  

Set in the near future, Plan 75 is a government programme to deal with this by encouraging senior citizens to be voluntarily euthanized. It’s all done very gently and very politely.  No pressure apparently – just incentives.

Hiromu (Hayato Isomura), a young salesman for the scheme, is so apparently caring of his clients that you think at first that he is a welfare worker.  Seventy something Michi (Chieko Baisho), while a possible candidate for the scheme, seems at first to be coping fine, though some of her elderly friends are tempted by the glossy brochure and the offer of $1,000 to spend how you like, on fun or funeral.  But when Michi loses her job and her age is a barrier to further employment, she too is tempted to enrol for the scheme.

Although the image many of us in the West have of Japanese society is of one that respects the family and the elderly, writer/director Chie Hayakawa points out here that this is changing.   And she uses her younger characters to make the point.

Immigrant care worker Maria (Stefanie Arianne) from the Philippines, where the old respect for the elderly still survives, is disturbed by the way the dead elders’ belongings are treated as garbage.  Hiromu seeks out his elderly uncle (Taka Takao), who is estranged from the family and has decided to take the Plan 75 offer.  His nephew is then horrified to discover the details of the callous profit motive which is behind the scheme. 

Meanwhile Michi, who has also decided to abandon the unequal struggle to survive and to surrender to the lure of Plan 75 is befriended by the young woman from the scheme’s support helpline.  Yoko (Yumi Kawai) whose job is to dissuade the oldies from changing their minds, breaks the rules and enjoys a night out at the bowling alley with her new friend, after which she too begins to have doubts about the morality of the scheme.

The acting is impeccable and the coolness of the treatment and the Eastern convention of not showing your feelings in public is interestingly foreign to Western film culture.  Even Hiromu’s grief and horror are only revealed in his private moments alone.  

Should the film be remade in a Hollywood version, I guess the characters’ emotions and the horror of the scheme will all be hanging out big time.  But though its restraint sometimes causes the narrative to be a touch tricky to follow, much of the impact of Plan 75 lies in its very understatement.