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A 21-year-old girl is released from prison, only to deal with the neighborhood gossip about her and family conflicts. She decides to save one million yen, move to where no one knows her and keep repeating the process.
Set in a dystopian society where the government imposes a deadly "Prosperity Law", where 1 in 1000 random citizens aged 18~24 will die from a mandatory lottery nano-capsule injection that would explode on a preset date and time. The idea behind this law is that the citizens will supposedly appreciate life more by having a constant fear that he/she may be the unlucky one, thus lives life to the fullest. This is a simple solution to the low birth rate and high suicide rate problem in Japan. Like "1984", there is also 'Thought Crime', where anyone against the law gets "treated appropriately", possibly a brainwash procedure that suppresses any opposition. There is a whole 'hush-hush' attitude towards the whole thing, and it's just something that has to happen that can't be questioned.
What I liked about the movie is that although the setting is absurd, everything makes sense under assumption that such law existed. The "sacrificed" receives the "Ikigami", or "Death Letter" 24-hours in advance of predicted time of death. The soon will-be deceased have government-backed privileges such as free food, travel, and entertainment during the last 24-hours and the family will receive a large lump-sum as a compensation. However, such 'inheritance' will be forfeited if he/she commits crimes for retribution after the notice.
Enter our protagonist, who starts working for the government agency that handles the "Prosperity Law" and sends out death notifications. Supposedly a 'prestigious and honorable' job. The movie is about 3 notification he sends out, and follows how the notified spend the last 24 hours of their lives. As you would expect, our protagonist starts having second thoughts about the whole law, and how it should be handled...
The director and producers of this movie are amazing. I seriously cried twice, because the story was told in such a touching way, and the mood changed dramatically in the key moments. I guess it can be said that it was a deliberate tear-jerker, but it worked on me. Music, though scarce, was utilized very well, and intensified the drama.
The cast for this movie was a pleasant surprise. I was very skeptic of this film at the start, because the leading actor Matsuda Shouta is like a magnet for fangirls. In TV doramas such as "Hana yori Dango", "LIAR GAME", and the movie "Waruboro", he didn't really seem to have perfected those characters he played, but he seemed very natural in this role and performed fabulously. The actors who received "Ikigami" and their friends/family... that was really something. It was totally loaded with big-name actors I like, and they all played their parts very convincingly. Yamada Takayuki and Narumi Riko didn't even appear until later half of the movie, I was completely taken off-guard.
This is another movie that makes you think about life, but it wasn't cheesy at all. Not only did it focus on those directly affected by the law, it also showed its effect on friends and family, and how people really did live to their fullest in their last moments. Acting, direction, cast, music, story... everything was flawless in every way. One of the best movies of the year.
I felt they hinted a possible sequel in the end, but I hope there wouldn't be one, because this movie is already perfect.
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