Japan’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar “Plan 75” is a science fiction film that’s surprisingly subversive. Director and co-writer Chie Hayakawa‘s debut feature is a contemplation on aging and the dignity of human life, but it would have worked much better as a short. The film is extremely slow moving, and a successful project would not have left me waiting for the characters to die and being relieved when it was finally over.
With aging citizens placing a greater burden on society than ever, the country of Japan has come to a humane solution: all citizens over the age of 75 can opt to voluntarily end their lives. This dystopian government program, known as Plan 75, has had a large success rate. Seniors don’t want to be a bother to their families and their country either physically or emotionally, causing many to choose euthanasia when they still have plenty of good years left.
It’s a fascinating script (co-written by Jason Gray) that’s gorgeously directed, but the writing could use a boost. The stories would benefit from a richer depth, especially the relationships between the elderly and young people that seem far too superficial. The social commentary is there, but it’s not as powerful as it could be as a result of the stories that go nowhere. Many interesting elements and plot lines are introduced, like the false promise of sending volunteers to a luxury resort before they are killed, but then there’s nothing more.
Hayakawa is certainly a skilled director, and her style is impeccable. She does an excellent job at getting the audience to fall in love with the sweet senior citizens and adorable elderly actors, showing them doing the most mundane (yet still charming) activities like shopping at the local market and meeting to sing at a home karaoke party. You know it’s only a matter of time before the film is ready to off grandma.
With “Plan 75,” Hayakawa takes an exceptional premise and crafts movie that suffers from its measured, leisurely pacing. If it moved along more quickly and the script more detailed, this would be a showpiece in international cinema. As-is, I found it to be painfully slow and lacking in intimate storytelling.