Chie Hayakawa’s PLAN 75, which had its world premiere at Cannes, is a beautifully humanist tale that inventively uses Japan’s aging population crisis as a conceit for a dystopian tale that looks at the value of life. Legislation has passed to fix Japan’s “aging problem;” Anyone over the age of seventy-five can apply for government-funded assisted suicide (hence, the name Plan 75).
The film becomes a triptych of stories–There’s Maria (Stefanie Arianne), an empathetic Filipina migrant worker who leaves a job in elder care for higher pay working with Plan 75 in order to raise funds for her daughter’s heart surgery; Hiromu (Hayato Isomura), a young salaryman who believes his work with Plan 75 is a benevolent social service until his estranged uncle shows up at his desk one day; And at the film’s heart is Michiko (an amazing performance by veteran actress Chieko Baishô), an independent-minded senior who turns to Plan 75 as a last option after facing discrimination that causes her to lose both her home and her job.
PLAN 75, however, is not all doom and gloom. In following Michiko, Maria, and Hiromu’s journeys, Director Hayakawa celebrates life and all its mundane, tiny joys–A love of cream soda and bowling; singing karaoke with a group of friends; altruistic tasks like feeding homeless some soup on a wintery night or donating blood for those in need. Hayakawa asks us to remember that it’s the little gestures and acts of kindness that bind us and not make individuals slip through the cracks of society.