Chie Hayakawa’s debut feature is an existential drama set in a Japan of the not-too-distant future. In this speculative culture, citizens over the age of 75 are offered money and guidance if they voluntarily opt into a government-sponsored euthanasia program designed to relieve the social and economic burdens of the country's rapidly ageing population. The moral, ethical, and societal issues of this premise are explored via three principal characters: an elderly woman hanging on to life, a man employed by the Plan 75 company, and an immigrant worker from the Philippines. But Hayakawa keeps us at such a removed distance from her protagonists that we never really connect with them as people. This glacially paced picture has a cold, sterile quality, which feels appropriate to its gently-dystopic setting but prevents us from connecting emotionally to the characters. That's a significant flaw for a picture that needs to work on a visceral and not just cerebral level.
The film was inspired by a 2016 incident in which a former employee of a home for the disabled broke in after-hours and murdered nineteen people, wounding many more. The belief that disabled and older people are a burden on society is one held not only by unhinged murderers. At the same time, in places like the US, sensible right-to-die and death-with-dignity laws are constantly struck down via right-wing hypoChristians who claim that such laws will encourage our government to exterminate individuals deemed unable to contribute to society. The issues raised in Plan 75 are complex and extensive, and this small-scale picture does not set out to investigate them all. Hayakawa attempts to explore the themes of humanity, dignity, and how an overpopulated civilization determines the value of individual lives by giving them human faces, but her film lacks the intimacy required to achieve that goal.
Three characters navigate a gently-dystopic near-future Japan where citizens over 75 are offered the opportunity to end their lives for the good of society in Chie Hayakawa’s chilly, glacially paced debut feature.