Due to the impressive advances in medicine and technology, the vast population of our planet can now live longer. But in doing so that creates a bit of a dilemma: what to do with all these old fogies?
Some cultures are embracing this older community and giving them the opportunity to contribute in some way, from anything from working part time to childcare care for family members.
But an aging population can have a negative impact too, especially as far as governments are concerned, as they can be a drain on resources, such as healthcare.
It’s no surprise then that Japanese director Chie Hayakawa has made this film, which she has also co-written, seeing that her homeland has the largest aging population on the planet.
In an attempt to remedy an aging population, the Japanese government introduce a new bill – plan 75 – that encourages those 75 and over, to consider euthanasia when they feel their time is coming to an end.
They make it an attractive proposition too, with not only a cash incentive, but also enticing the elderly with professional photos as well as decadent spa treatments.
It’s not something Michi (Chieko Baishô) has considered, but when her circumstances change, Plan 75 doesn’t just seem an appealing choice, but the only one left to her.
This is a type of film that could have gotten dark real quick considering its material. But in Hayakawa’s hands, it has a matter-of-fact quality about it, which only adds to its realism.
For instance, there are no government officials rubbing their hands together, giving off Bond villain-esque laughs at their evil plans coming to fruition. Instead, the plan is presented in such a way that when you consider all the facts, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was presented as a real bill.
It’s only through the journey of Michi that we get to the heart of the film, essentially revealing what the real killer of the elderly is – loneliness.
This is substantiated by two other characters, coming at the story from different angles: a young man who works for Plan 75 on the recruitment side, and a young Filipino woman who finds herself in need of making more cash, as she has an ailing daughter back home.
It is a quiet, sensitive film that slowly develops into something with real tenderness. And considering the taboo in most cultures surrounding death, it also has an honest and brave approach to its material.
The ‘plan’ is an interesting mechanic to highlight the issue that Japan, as well as other countries, have with their elderly, in not quite knowing what to do with them. And of course, how loneliness can quickly become a factor, when peers start to pass before them, leaving them with large holes to fill in their day to day lives.
And whether it intended to or not, the chances are it will make you pause to think about your own mortality, and how your own story could pan out later on in life. Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve a real life plan 75, because if it gets that bad, we’re all in trouble.