To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday is a forlorn little movie that goes for wistful sorrow, but achieves something closer to sickening self-pity in its character study of a grieving widower. That David Lewis (Peter Gallagher) is pathologically unable to move past the death of his wife is the point of the movie, but his attitudes never evolve during the course of David E. Kelley's screenplay, which is problematic. His wan smiles and overly sentimental recollections just get played out repeatedly, only with different dialogue in each scene. The concerns of the supporting characters are much more interesting, with Kathy Baker and Bruce Altman trying to sort out their marital impasse, and Claire Danes working to reconcile the past her father can't forget with the future she longs to experience. The fact that all this takes place against a picturesque Nantucket backdrop gives the film an intoxicating buzz of summer escapism. But the viewer will find no escape from Gallagher's moist musings, which grow ever more bizarre as he ritualistically celebrates the ongoing relationship in his mind. David Lewis sure is a nice guy, and this sure is a nice movie, but eventually, the viewer will want to shake them both.
by Derek Armstrong review