‘Plan 75’ Review: Leaving Early

In this quietly bold debut feature, the Japanese government offers a euthanasia program and a 78-year-old woman considers her future.

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By Nicolas Rapold

In the lurid 1973 dystopian thriller “Soylent Green,” Edward G. Robinson movingly played a man who embraced euthanasia, dying in a special chamber while being soothed by classical music. That story was set in 2022. “Plan 75,” the quietly bold debut feature of Chie Hayakawa, is on the same page, envisioning a more or less present-day version of Japan that hawks euthanasia services to the aged.

As macabre as that sounds, the conceit channels actual anxieties in Japan about providing for a growing population of seniors. The sober drama centers on a 78-year-old woman, Michi (Chieko Baisho), who still has her independence, her health and a karaoke-loving friend circle.

The government’s assisted suicide program seems like an over-advertised nuisance to Michi, until she loses her job and finds a friend slumped over dead. Life turns precarious, Michi grows isolated and Plan 75 — the name of the government program — starts to sounds appealing. We are also introduced to a Plan 75 clerk, Hiromu (Hayato Isomura), and a Filipino caretaker, Maria (Stefanie Arianne), who takes an unsavory gig with the program.

Hayakawa avoids slipping into satire or a stylized dystopia, making details like a euthanasia spa package seem plausible (and insidious). Yet a somnolence hangs over the film, and Hiromu and Maria are left somewhere between having full-fledged story lines and just being useful foils. Still, Baisho gets across the creeping despair that morbidity and the loss of community can create — a sensation that lets “Plan 75” double as a consummate entry in pandemic-era cinema.

Plan 75
Not rated. In Japanese and Tagalog, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. In theaters.

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