Plan 75 review – life is terminated at 75 in melancholy anti-euthanasia drama

To combat an ageing population, a future Japan passes a law to pay older citizens to sign up for an easeful death, in this weird and poignant film

This strange, melancholy film from Japan effectively makes the (unfashionable) case against euthanasia: that old people won’t want to be a bother or appear selfish and so will feel pressured into accepting state medicide. Director and co-writer Chie Hayakawa imagines a future in which Japan, burdened with an ageing population, proposes a supposedly voluntary but actually insidiously coercive arrangement called Plan 75, in which citizens of 75 years and above can sign up for an easeful death in return for 1,000 dollars which they can either spend on themselves or give away to their family. The system becomes a success, to the extent that a chilling Plan 65 is mooted, and the drama shows us how this creates a new burden for old people: the burden of explaining to themselves why they don’t just do the rational thing and end it all.

We see older characters retired from jobs which they really need, people without access to welfare and housing, old people who are desperately lonely and who even crave the Plan 75 helpline as someone to talk to. But the movie creates dissident moments: a young employee of Plan 75 realises that one applicant is his elderly uncle, while a Plan 75 call centre operative meets an old lady in person and takes her for an evening’s bowling, and realises that her colleagues are being trained in steering callers away from the last-minute change of heart which is the customer’s theoretical right.

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