2022 is the year Soylent Green predicted that the Earth’s overpopulation would necessitate a form of recycling program for human bodies and government-assisted suicide would be encouraged. So last year was a particularly apt time for Chie Hayakawa’s debut feature, Plan 75, to premiere at Cannes.
In order to combat the strain Japan’s growing ageing population puts on younger generations, a voluntary euthanasia plan for people over the age of 75 is introduced. A financial incentive follows, and the so-called Plan 75 booms into a lucrative private sector – so much so that after three years authorities talk of lowering the age to 65.
The two-hour-long film examines the programme from different perspectives: a salesman luring customers, a physician who deals with implementation and aftermath, a young woman responsible for telephone counselling and an elderly woman, who, after initial hesitation, feels out of other options.
What is striking about Plan 75 is that it is not framed as a prototypically dystopian vision. With pensive forbearance, the environment that created this situation is introduced: the ageism, the loneliness of being shut out and forgotten. After purchasing the plan, for a brief time, the ageing citizens feel valued again. The elderly protagonist talks about her attempt to get sushi, but the restaurant wouldn’t deliver an order for a single person. Upon hearing it would be her last meal, she received a deluxe set.
Meanwhile, the salesman, who had no qualms about cutting corners to keep the business running when it was strangers who came to him, has second thoughts when it is his own relative signing up.
The cast complement each other perfectly and deliver poignant performances – veteran Chieko Baishô, above all, pulling at audience’s heartstrings. The scenic cinematography captures contemplative moments that subtly re-instill the notion that life is worth living for everybody.
Especially for a first-time filmmaker, Chie Hayakawa displays a tremendous confidence in her world and her characters with her all-round courageous execution; she doesn’t hold the viewer’s hand but lets them discover for themselves.
Plan 75 is released in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 12th May 2023. Read our interview with the director here.
Watch a clip from Plan 75 here: