As its title would have it, Plan 75 has a broad purview over the implementation and implications of its alternate, not-too-distant future. In this future, set in Japan, citizens 75 years and above are not only permitted, but actively encouraged, to opt for euthanasia as a way of alleviating the nation’s aging problem. The state-funded euthanasia program, curtly titled “Plan 75,” is neat, sumptuous, and deeply professional: for the price of free, and even with a thousand US dollars as monetary incentive, participants enjoy a few tele-counseling sessions (capped at fifteen minutes each), a couple of warm “deluxe” meals, and, on D-Day itself, the dignity of performing one last service to their country by donning a small gas mask at one of the designated centers and slipping slowly into quiet, untroubled sleep. But despite its sociological dimensions, the debut of Chie Hayakawa is a deeply personal study of those affected by the program, whether as provider, patient, or their loved one. Plan 75 marks its relevance with a masterful and well-calibrated narrative of the individuals that live and persist within, and often despite, the workings of dystopia.
Belying the courtesy of many a consult between management and prospective candidates is a clinical valuation of life and purpose. The bulk of applicants who sign themselves up for euthanasia are retired, live alone, and do not have or see their children much, and so are discharged by and large from purpose. This statistic makes up the starting point of Plan 75, but it does not consign the film itself to clinicality. If anything, the stoic, weathered faces of the elderly serve as ciphers for… it’s anyone’s guess — distress, resignation, humiliation, and perhaps a smattering of pride may color their cheeks as they make the final arrangements, either in solitude or with friends. Michi (Chieko Baisho), a septuagenarian recently laid off from her job as a hotel cleaner, contemplates doing so only after her landlord evicts her and she cannot find alternate accommodation. Hiromo (Hayato Isomura), a young Plan 75 bureaucrat, encounters his estranged uncle filing an application to die. Their pathways barely intersect, but underscoring them both is a pathos that shirks histrionics for quiet honesty.
This honesty is further bolstered by Hayakawa’s decision not to mount an overly theoretical examination of Plan 75’s macabre cultural consensus. Such an examination could work elsewhere, perhaps, but implanting it here would likely risk caricaturing the motivations and lived experiences of its characters. Instead, the film shores up their humanity against the detached gaze of social engineering stretched to its utilitarian conclusion, even depicting the travails of Maria (Stefanie Arianne), a Filipino caretaker who signs up to dispose the bodies and possessions of the dead as a means to support herself and her ailing young daughter. Amidst these otherwise unformed portraits of a moral epidemic come two sobering realizations: that collective loneliness easily cascades into conformity, and that this conformity is closer to home than expected. Inspired in part by the real-life massacre of nineteen care-home residents in 2016 and the comments made by Yūsuke Narita — an economist and Yale University professor — on the prospect of mass suicide, Plan 75 may proffer too few satisfying resolutions for some and too casual a fictionalization of contemporary demographic projections for others, but its humanist renderings of an otherwise apathetic world are accomplished and deeply moving.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 16.