Glasgow 2023

Plan 75 review – uneven exploration of ageism brings the future to the present

An elderly euthanasia scheme drives the narrative of this intriguing but erratically paced effort from Japanese filmmaker Chie Hayakawa

Though films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel have tried to convince us otherwise, growing older isn’t always the stuff of late-life hedonism. In Plan 75′s not-too-distant future, the Japanese government introduces a scheme designed to encourage senior citizens to euthanise themselves. At its best, the film holds a mirror to our internationally held grudge against the humble pensioner, actively viewing them as a burden to be strategically removed. But while its premise is both refreshing and expertly timely, the film’s pacing and lack of continued explanation leaves narrative holes akin to a moth-eaten blanket handed down by your grandparents.

Plan 75 tackles the scheme’s conflicting moral dilemmas from multiple perspectives, from those that work for the initiative to the unsuspecting sheep who are signing their lives away. One such sheep is Mishi (Chieko Baisho), who is reluctantly unemployed with no immediate family or friends to care for her. There’s a bleak coldness in director Chie Hayakawa’s take on modern-day Japan, shrouding its elderly in a dissociated state that removes them from any shared warmth or empathy. Thankfully, most have each other – with a karaoke scene in particular inspiring watery eyes from even the toughest of nuts.

Though Mishi is largely on her own, Plan 75 effortlessly weaves threads of long-lost family and generational divides into its narrative journey, as scheme worker Hiromu (Hayato Isomura) changes heart after finding out his estranged uncle is in the next crop of recruits. Both Hiromu and Mishi respectively have their love-trumps-all moment, with Hiromu delving into family trauma while Mishi strikes up a connection with Plan 75 call centre agent Yoko (Yuumi Kawai).

Each of these isolated moments holds a great deal of power without context, yet somewhat struggles to be fully explained in the film’s greater context. While it offers a sharp sting of realism to see such a cruelly direct scheme in a recognisable environment, many of its moments are left ambiguous when they could benefit from a more detailed look. It’s never a surety how recruits progress from one development to another, what the specifics of the plan entail, or how the scheme came to be in the first place. What’s more, the film’s pacing is often erratic, jumping into one scene without entirely finessing its previously shown storyline.

It’s quite amazing how younger generations in Plan 75 seem unfazed that they are effectively setting up their own future — yet the sentiment speaks to a wider ignorance we're all perhaps guilty of. Hayakawa is one of the few directors brave enough to speak out on the subject, and for that alone, cinema is in her debt.

Plan 75 was screened as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2023. It is released in UK cinemas on 12 May.

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