Cinema Review: Plan 75

Posted 5 months ago in Cinema Reviews

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Good dystopian stories bring to full bloom the black seeds already present in our society.

Chie Hayakawa’s quietly chilling Plan 75 opening is misleading. You believe a high-octane, dystopian thriller is in store. In a recreation of a real massacre targeting disabled people in Sagamihara, a man murders elderly people in a care home, leaving a note arguing for the legalisation of euthanasia for people over 75. The man argues that elderly people who are too infirm to have a good quality of life should be given the chance to die, reducing the burden on the economy that comes from their care – in Japan, almost 40% of its population is over 60.

The film asks what if this ghoulish proposal was really enacted in Japan. The government launches the titular Plan 75, a service provided to the elderly who want to choose when they die. In Japan, where discretion is paramount, the service is just accepted as a fact of life.

We follow three characters, whose storylines intersect: A young, courteous Plan 75 salesman, Himoru, who questions his job when an estranged uncle signs up; Maria, a Filipino care worker who reluctantly accepts a job with Plan 75, so that she can send money to her ailing daughter; and, Michi, an isolated 78-year-old woman who considers applying after she loses her job.

This film does a great job of bringing this awful vision to life by playing it down. The service is humdrum and bureaucratic: corporate inhumanity on a mass scale, sold with a smile, as though it’s a desirable product, in your best interests.

Indeed, it’s that very faithful rendering of this “what if” world that renders this film somewhat dramatically inert. Despite being impressed by this vision’s plausibility, I found it quite bloodless. However apt this lifelessness is, I was willing the film to ramp up, for a character to lash out.

Nevertheless, the film’s low-key nature could ultimately be the ace up its sleeve. By playing out its story with little fanfare, the film stays true to the experience that the aged, lamentably, have to endure. These unassuming, marginalised souls woke up one day to find they were invisible, so it makes sense that Plan 75 goes ahead without much resistance, save for the odd little skirmish – at one point, someone attempts to pelt Himoru with fruit. Once normalised, such inhumanity becomes invisible too. Ratified by mass consensus, the banality of evil prevails.

Tonally, the film is a success, but it’s a little too withheld. The Filipino nurse’s story isn’t sufficiently fleshed out; Himoru’s storyline squanders its dramatic potential. Still, the restraint works for Michi’s journey, the most affecting storyline of the film, which is striking because it manages to be so without recourse to what usually makes for drama: relationship dynamics. That is, except for one fleeting connection, with a Plan 75 phone operator, who breaks protocol to actually show Michi tenderness.

Words: Rory Kiberd

Illustrator: James Ashe

Director: Chie Hayakawa

Talent: Chieko Baisho, Hayato Isomura, Stefanie Arianne.

Release Date: May 12


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Dublin Theater Festival -23 – MPU


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