My hunch is that it would be political suicide for any democratically elected government to actually implement the kind of policy evident in Plan 75 – but then, given what policies have come into effect in various countries in recent years, I suppose almost anything is possible. The film is set in modern day Japan, where legislation has been passed through the National Diet, to euthanise people aged seventy-five and over. It does not involve American-style shootings, but billions have been set aside by the government, and an entire industry has quickly begun to flourish.
To get rid of the elderly (sorry to be blunt, but that is what happens in this movie), they are encouraged to attend a Plan 75 clinic, where consultations are held, and various options provided. It is not a compulsory scheme – at least not officially, and there is even the incentive of $1,000 (presumably US currency, though quite why this would be in Japan is anyone’s guess) which older citizens who sign up to Plan 75 can spend as they wish. Plan 75 is keen to point out that it is well and truly $1,000 to spend on whatever they want, in the sense that nobody from Plan 75 is going to bother conducting investigations on what it was spent on.
The whole point of it in the first place is to try to alleviate a housing crisis in Japan, as well as a large and still growing burden on the public purse because of the amount being shelled out on state pensions. As Michi Kakutani (Chieko Baishô) discovers, it is difficult to carry on with life, even if one doesn’t want to die before their time, albeit in a comfortable clinic where dying is pain free. Plan 75’s services are extensive, including looking after a customer’s personal affairs once they have gone, and offering funeral services (that said, we already have life insurance policies where people are able to choose their own coffin and all that). It’s grim when people over a certain age are forced to retire, even when they both need and enjoy what they do, and even their employers are unhappy at being forced to let them go. They join the gig economy as a result – the image of an octogenarian outdoors in the small hours redirecting traffic due to overnight roadworks is a very sorry one.
Technically, senior citizens have the right to back out even when they are in the clinic, and just before they take their poison (I can’t really call it ‘medicine’), they are asked again if they are sure they wish to proceed. But the call centre staff are well versed in persuasive powers to talk people into continuing, just as any salesperson in any industry would try to promote the benefits of whatever it is they are selling. There are scenarios unexplored in this movie – what happens, for instance, when someone with dementia decides they want to end their life, but the relative or close friend who has power of attorney didn’t agree to it?
When Himoru Okabe (Hayato Isomura) notices his uncle Yukio (Takao Taka) has signed up to Plan 75, he takes it upon himself to ensure the very best care and attention is given. Elsewhere, a woman in the call centre befriends a customer, taking her ten-pin bowling (this being an evocative and emotive film, of course the over-75 woman scores a perfect ten). Maria (Stefanie Arianne) has a bit more of a backstory, an immigrant worker who gets a job at Plan 75 because her pastor has advised her it pays more than her current job, and she’s scrimping and saving up to pay for medical treatment for her young daughter.
It is, in the end, a majestic piece of reverse psychology, demonstrating what could happen if we did terminate life at seventy-five, or any other arbitrary age. Whatever the apparent benefits are of, for instance, dispensing with one’s mother-in-law, the film rightly asserts it’s more trouble than it’s worth.