TIFF 2022 | Coyote (Canada, Katherine Jerkovic) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Madeline Wall

After having to sell his successful restaurant, The Coyote, ten years ago, chef Camilo (Jorge Martinez Colorado) lives a quiet, solitary life in Montreal. The meals he cooks for his friends are beautiful, but rather than working in a kitchen, he spends his evenings as a janitor. He is trying to return to the restaurant world, but decade-old press clippings fail to impress his interviewers, and he increasingly feels further and further apart from the world around him. As Camilo tries to better his circumstances, his estranged daughter Tania (Eva Avila) shows up, wanting help with her own issues.. She is headed to rehab, and needs Camilo to take care of her son Zachary, a grandson he never knew existed. 

The return of his daughter coincides with what Camilo has been wishing for: an old fan of the restaurant reaches out, offering him a job. The gig is miles outside of the city; in order to move on with his life as he wants, he can only take care of Zachary for so long. Tania’s addiction is also why they’re estranged, and why he sold his restaurant over a decade ago. But even his frustrations at his daughter, tied up as they are in the loss of his wife and restaurant, cannot overcome the needs of his five-year-old grandson.

Katherine Jerkovic’s second feature treats potentially tired subjects like addiction, immigration, and labour with respect; it’s tactile and intimate, with the director giving space to her actors to reveal their characters’ worlds naturally. The weight of the film lies in Jorge Martinez Colorado’s performance as a man who, when given the opportunity, shows an incredible capacity for care. Camilo’s food is good because of his attention to it; his moments of anger and grief come from concern for others. Though Camilo is unsure of taking care of his grandson, it is easy to understand how quickly he takes on the paternal role, knowing to zip up the boy’s jacket at the playground and to ask after his toys. There are no real dramatic upheavals in Coyote, but rather the small tragedies of everyday life, punctuated by the kinds of choices that may not be good, but are still right.