Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 20
  2. Negative: 1 out of 20
  1. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Like a good pitcher, Trevor Morgan varies his emotions and perfectly grooves his role as the high-school star. Huffing and puffing, Nolte plops around with brilliant finesse, smartly exposing this frustrated old ballplayer's inside strength and fears.
  2. There's something very right with Off the Black in terms of pure emotion and performance craft.
  3. 25
    If your film is as downbeat and deflated as this one, you had better be leading up to a more interesting insight than, "The older I get, the more I know that I don't know anyone."
  4. Reviewed by: Gregory Kirshling
    Sucking at the top of many a can, and greedily slurping the sides of an overflowing bottle, Nolte gives a master class in how to drink a beer on screen. The rest of his work here is sad, understated, and worth seeking out.
  5. Off the Black is so much Mr. Nolte’s movie that it couldn’t exist without him. His character is the latest in a long line of Hemingway-esque ruins, marinated in beer and testosterone, who have become Mr. Nolte’s specialty.
  6. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Anchored by a terrific performance from Nick Nolte as a grizzled umpire who gets an unexpected second chance at fatherhood, this easygoing comedy-drama plays out slowly but assuredly, infusing a conventional story about a blossoming relationship with welcome reserves of honesty and humor.
  7. 60
    I think the movie is so restrained, and holds back so much on conventional plot and characterization, that its emotional impact is severely blunted. Nolte is excellent, I suppose, but we've seen this damaged-American-dude shtick from him before.
  8. As good as Nolte is, the relatively unknown Morgan matches him scene for scene. And he's not the only impressive newcomer. Remarkably, this confident indie is the first feature from writer-director Ponsoldt, who shuns any slickness to embrace the rough edges of his low-budget, bare-bones story.
  9. There's nothing too small about Nolte's performance. He's the perfect companion for a rookie feature film director looking to make a good first impression.
  10. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Writer-director James Ponsoldt's first feature is a small, modest movie structured around a fairly simple situation that leaves plenty of room for some fine performances.
  11. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Off the Black is a small, dry, emotionally loaded short story that has been carried to film like baked fish to a platter.
  12. 63
    I appreciate that Ponsoldt doesn't go for cheap tears through over-sentimentality, but his detached, low-key approach distances viewers from the characters. I watched the drama unfold from afar but was never involved on an emotional level.
  13. 70
    It's a touching story of father and son type male bonding -- male bonding with Nick Nolte no less -- that's bound to find some audience members blubbering by film's end.
  14. Playing a cantankerous, beer-swigging human wreck of a man for the umpteenth time, Nolte is very good but very familiar.
  15. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    A disarmingly droll and insightful indie.
  16. 70
    Off the Black is a modest, bittersweet character study that hits its mark.
  17. Reviewed by: Tim Grierson
    Off the Black gradually establishes its own peculiar cranky rhythm, fighting to resist the usual male-bonding sentimentality. But despite some nice touches, this is the sort of too-precious indie film that gives its characters unnecessary quirks.
  18. 60
    The leads are good, and Timothy Hutton is memorably off-putting as the pitcher's disengaged dad. But having created the aching umpire, Ponsoldt occupies him with some fairly shopworn situations.
  19. Writer-director James Ponsoldt's film treats big subjects -- loneliness, coming-of-age and father-son relationships -- with such half-baked conviction, it's a wonder the screen doesn't redden with embarrassment. Which makes it all the more gratifying to watch Nolte pulverize the dramatic banality around him.
  20. 50
    Nolte almost makes it work.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 6 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. ChadS.
    Apr 18, 2007
    A post-it near the beer, in the refrigerator that holds the beer, reminds Ray(Nick Nolte), who is always engaged in full-hangover mode, how A post-it near the beer, in the refrigerator that holds the beer, reminds Ray(Nick Nolte), who is always engaged in full-hangover mode, how he self-imposed on himself a three-beer limit. Our assumption is that he means per-day, but by the looks of this ramshackle umpire, per-hour seems just as likely. "Off the Black" is about an off-the-field friendship between a young man and an ump, fraught with the vaguest sexual tension lurking beneath its father-son dynamic. Ray isn't the Brian Cox character from Michael Cuesta's "L.I.E.", and yet "Off the Black" surprises us with its relevation about the receiver of his homemade movies. And then there's Dave(Trevor Morgan), who reveals himself as having an ambiguous sexual orientation, in a pivotal scene, where he registers not the slightest interest in a girl seated next to him during class(she's pretty enough, and he pays her no mind). But most crucial of all, look closely at Dave as he learns about the buried particulars in Ray's past at the umpire's class reunion. Is Dave hurt? If you want, "Off the Black" can simply be just a heartwarming motion picture about a lonely, old man and his younger charge, who both strike up a symbiotic relationship that is advantageous, yet unethical, as it pertains to the integrity of baseball(ask any fan, it's wrong). But what "Off the Black" really wants to say lies in its gay subtext(that is, if you think it exists), which states(with three snaps in a zig-zag motion): if you don't think there are any gay athletes in sports, think again. When Ray throws Dave out at his home; that their relationship has come to an impasse, he tells his fake boy, "Any father would be proud to have a son like you." This line is either heartbreaking(to Dave if he's gay, and Ray is clueless), or poignant(if Ray knows and loves him like a son anyway). Nolte, looking like he's in a perpetual alcoholic haze, makes gauging the implicit meaning of his complement impossible. Full Review »
  2. DanielleR.
    Dec 11, 2006
    It made me laugh and cry.
  3. Matt
    Dec 7, 2006
    Great movie. Nolte's crazy-brilliant!