22 user 29 critic

Off the Black (2006)

R | | Drama | 8 December 2006 (USA)
An aging, disillusioned alcoholic (Nolte) gets a younger friend (Morgan) and wants him to pose as his son at a school reunion.


James Ponsoldt


James Ponsoldt




Cast overview, first billed only:
Trevor Morgan ... Dave Tibbel
Nick Nolte ... Ray Cook
Rosemarie DeWitt ... Debra
Thomas Schall Thomas Schall ... Male Parent #1
Paul Urcioli ... Male Parent #2
Johnathan Tchaikovsky ... Paul Michaels
Noah Fleiss ... Todd Hunter
Sonia Feigelson Sonia Feigelson ... Ashley Tibbel
Timothy Hutton ... Mr. Tibbel
James Ponsoldt ... Robby
Darrell Larson ... Doctor
Richard Petrocelli ... Man in Doctor's Office
Richard Terwilliger Richard Terwilliger ... Teacher
Marlyne Barrett ... Nancy (as Marlyne Afflack)
Michael Higgins ... Al Cook


An aging, disillusioned alcoholic (Nolte) gets a younger friend (Morgan) and wants him to pose as his son at a school reunion.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Would you let this man be your father?



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a crude sexual remark | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


When Ray comes to pick up Dave for the reunion, Dave comes downstairs carrying a corsage in a plastic box. When Dave asks Ray if he's going to call him "son" all day, the box and flower disappear. See more »


Ray Cook: Fresh as a daisy, fresh as a gravestone.
See more »


References Doctor Zhivago (1965) See more »


If I Needed You
Written and Performed by Townes van Zandt
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under License from EMI Film & Television Music
See more »

User Reviews

No, it's got nothing to do with the sport of Snooker; but maker of the piece Ponsoldt has fun shifting his characters around as if they were marble balls on an open table.
5 April 2010 | by johnnyboyzSee all my reviews

2006 film Off the Black pre-dates Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino by about three or so years. The tale of a lonely, elderly man living in an American neighbourhood whom forms a bond with young-'un that recently wronged him, or attempted to, works, with hindsight, close to all but just as well here. The film is dominated by a wonderful performance from Nick Nolte, a character we observe suffering from isolation in a sparsely populated neighbourhood complimenting his sparsely populated life. His character's mental health and mental well-being is placed right on the spot from the off, one instance seeing him talk directly into a tripod mounted video camera as he reminisces about the day just gone by, a sort of video diary that enables him to talk; to interact; to just get his feelings out and known even if there's nobody any where near the general vicinity of his plot of land.

Off the Black tells the story of two rather different individuals at very different points in their life. For Nolte's Ray Cook, that ability to make a cut-and-thrust decision in the heat of the moment when the stakes are rather high is demonstrated in the film's first scene when, as a line judge in a baseball match, he calls foul on a home pitcher and they consequently loose the match. Very quickly we're given the sense that this guy is not afraid of making a call. As the film progresses, his efficiency to function as someone as honest and clear-cut dawn on us that these things may have contributed to his current situation. The pitcher, a certain Dave Tibbel (Morgan) who's still a high school student in comparison, takes it on with a few buddies to wreck a revenge on Cook's house – ultimately something that has more of an impact on Tibbel's life than he first presumed. Off the Black sees writer/director James Ponsoldt apply a very gradual, very natural arc to proceedings in using his ability to determine just how far Tibbel's inner-feelings are manifesting by providing a strand documenting the downfall in his friendship with his high-school pals as a friendship with Cook develops.

The beauty of Ponsoldt's script allows both characters to undergo respective changes without ever overbearing us with one or the other, with both characters and their progressions vying for power as the audience latch onto either one of the younger or the elder. After catching Tibbel in his yard immediately post-prank, six-shooter in hand, as graffiti covers the side of Ray's car and toilet roll covers both the roof of the house and a tree in the garden, forcing it to look more like a spaghetti junction from a distance, an agreement between the two sees Tibbel return to the scene of the crime and clear everything up rather than involve the police. Ray's decision to use police involvement as a threat more-so an idea of plan of action works just so as to get some regular company over at his place, and I have a feeling it was always going to be the way. As Ray himself observes: Dave may very well be a regular, average kid; but he's not yet at a point where he can make his own decisions, something that rings true nearer the very end when David is faced, in what is quite a jarring scene, with a pretty powerful decision that involves whether or not to play a video cassette.

In cutting away, briefly, to document the decline in relations with his friends; there is poignant sequence in which David and his own father share a scene with Ray close in-tow, a kitchen window acting as a physical barrier between David and his father played effectively in the few scenes he has by Timothy Hutton. This visual clue as to which male adult David is able to better connect with, and on a more consistently basis, tells us feature film débutant Ponsoldt has an astute eye for injecting life and meaning into dialogue sequences in which the most basic of human emotions are explored by way of the usual dialogue.

Like most of what Cook goes through in Off the Black, the film carries a wavy and distant feel; a tone of emptiness in a film which is full of rich character studies. While I think it's the better film, the pulpy and somewhat action orientated tone of 2009's Gran Torino combined such elements with it being a generally intimate film shot with a persistent use of the close up, applied to specific scenes when the elderly male and the younger male share experiences. Rather than maneuver down this route in which youth orientated antagonism was persistently hanging over the younger character of the piece, Off the Black instead incorporates longer shots of lonely houses backing onto train lines; calm, spitting sprinklers going about their business on lawns and on one occasion, Nolte's character perched on a jet ski amidst a wide open and lonely lake of gently lapping water. Where Gran Torino is aggressive and confrontational in an increasingly aggressive and transitional world, Off the Black takes a step backwards and just enjoys more the observing of these people in-between developing them. There is a moment about half way through when Cook has a crazy idea that Tibbel reacts to, only to later find out that in playing out the suggested role, he fills two gaps at once in not only his, but Cook's life as well. Off the Black is a rich and rather rewarding, burning drama which effectively looks at maintaining families and friendships to the best of some rather unintegrated person's ability.

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Release Date:

8 December 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Asignatura pendiente See more »

Filming Locations:

Suffern, New York, USA


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,763, 10 December 2006

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Forensic Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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