Mend and Make Do (2014) was Bexie Bush’s thesis project for her animation degree. I love this debut animated/documentary/narrative film.
Official British government WWII leaflets were titled Make Do and Mend: Keeping Family and Home Afloat on War Rations. Bexie Bush created a personal story from unity propaganda.
We meet Bush’s storyteller in her living room via a cup of tea on the table. What we know of her as a young woman, she will tell us. She made a frock for herself from her mother’s drapery. Here Bush brings the frock to animated life and gives the defrocked curtain a mouth that will then voice her mother. Dresses on a wire dressmaker’s mannequin will represent our narrator.
When her parentally affianced Vince is called for duty, her father orders a ring on her finger before he heads off. “And then. War.” A bare lightbulb in the center of the darkened frame explodes into animation.
Marvelous choices for visualization! Vince is a shadow on the wall—in one touching sequence, the frocked mannequin dances with the shadow. Dancing begins with an animated wedding topper spinning on vinyl on the record player.
Our narrator’s father is voiced by the fireplace flame flickering.
Throughout there is witnessing performed by tea, so like my own family. In the heartbreaking train departure when the shadow of Vince leaves for war—just as our narrator discovers she is in love—the teapot and cups become the whistling speeding train.
Girlfriends of the bride are voiced by the Rosie painting on the wall.
The wallpaper animates from the war pattern to a freshened postwar zest as we return to the present.
The children grow up as animated clothing.
A heartbreaking favorite transition is Vince’s shadow on the wall as she revisits his passing.
The film palette changes from the muted sea greens, blues and gray of the establishing shots, to the brown and sepia of the war years; bright yellows and blues when the children are young, and then returning to the soft colors of the present, now enriched and deepened by Bush’s visual storytelling.
Linda Robinson is an artist and writer who lives in rural Michigan. When she isn’t making art, she is screening movies. When not watching film, she reads books about filmmaking.