Usually, when a romance doesn’t work out, it is not the end of the world. We are told that there are others out there for us, that the person we have lost was not “the one” (or, at least, not the only one), and that we will learn to love again. However, anyone who has gone through intense heartbreak will tell you that sometimes no condolence can protect you from the agonizing suspicion that everyone is wrong.
What if the chance for true love has sailed, and we are too late?
This ultimate romantic nightmare is put to film in Pantelis Voulgaris’ “Little England.” Set against a backdrop of the Aegean Sea on the Greek island of Andros, the film spans the period between 1930 through 1950 and follows estranged sisters Orsa and Moscha, the only children of a hard-hearted mother and largely-absent seafaring father. As the plot unfolds, the relationship that Orsa and Moscha have with the sea becomes a constant reminder of the push and pull of their lives — tradition and loneliness, security and yearning, and the great unfairness of life and love, which are both uncontrollable and inescapable — as their dreams of the future are dashed against the rocks or sunk into obscurity. When these sisters fall in love with the same man (Spyros), their lives are lost in a tempest of unspoken truths and jealousy.
The intense despair of the people of Andros is only matched by the luxurious beauty of the characters’ costumes. Orsa, the more introspective of the two sisters, is seen almost exclusively in solid colors that match the island and its surroundings –peach, cream, sky blue, and Cypress green— while Moscha, more outspoken and naïve, wears trendy accessories, girlish flower prints, and bold patterns. These differences mark their clashing personalities, but the similarly delicate, organic, fluttering cuts of their clothing mirror their shared and painfully adaptable femininity.
As their fate as victims of circumstance crystallizes, Orsa’s and Moscha’s longing for true love doesn’t fade with time. Instead, it matures with age, and their styles of dress both harden into a matching uniform of black. Their style outlines the arc of love’s presence and then permanent destruction in the lives of two hopeless romantics, created with the kind of heartbreaking poise that only someone with the most dogmatic reverence for romance could imagine.