Film reviews: Fire of Love | DC League of Super-Pets | Hit the Road | Joyride

Combining epic visuals and dreamy narration, Sara Dosa’s documentary Fire of Love is a beautiful retelling of the tragic story of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Kraft, writes Alistair Harkness

Katia Krafft wearing aluminized suit standing near lava burst at Krafla Volcano, Iceland PIC: Image'Est
Katia Krafft wearing aluminized suit standing near lava burst at Krafla Volcano, Iceland PIC: Image'Est

Fire of Love (PG) ****

DC League of Super-Pets (PG) ***

Hit the Road (12A) ****

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    Joyride (15) *

    Featuring the sort of epic visuals one might expect to find in a Christopher Nolan movie, Sara Dosa’s documentary Fire of Love tells the incredible story of French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Kraft. Having fallen for each other amid the erupting lava streams and exploding mountaintops of active volcanoes across the globe, the Krafts' professional passion provides a relationship metaphor that's too good to pass up, so it’s to Dosa’s credit that she tempers the fiery imagery and close-ups of hot molten rocks spewing from cracks in the earth with a dreamy narration – hauntingly voiced by Miranda July – that helps simultaneously examine and maintain the mystery of her subjects’ lives just as their work did with the volcanoes they ultimately sacrificed themselves to study.

    Interspersing news reports and chat show appearances with astonishing footage from the Krafts' own archive, the film is more essay-like in form, deviating from the faux objectivity of the medium with playful asides and inventive use of split screens, annotations and animation. But it also draws the curtain back on the documentary process itself to show how aware of their own public personae and filmmaking prowess the Krafts became as the years rolled on. Beginning their story on their final day alive (they were killed in 1991 while studying the eruption of Mount Unzen in Japan), the film has an elegiac quality, one that’s beautifully and thrillingly reinforced by the majesty of everything they documented.

    Superman’s explosive origin story gets a slight tweak in DC League of Super-Pets, an animated superhero spin-off focusing on the Man of Steel’s pet hound Krypto. Having apparently snuck on board that floating crystal thing that transported baby Kal-El to Earth, Krypto (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) has been with Superman since he was a puppy, becoming quite the fixture in Metropolis by helping his master repeatedly save the city. But when Lulu (Kate McKinnon), an evil guinea pig living in an animal shelter, figures out how to harness the power of Kryptonite to give herself superpowers and incapacitate Superman, Krypto must team up with a band of newly super-powered rescue animals – among them a bat-eared Boxer-Chihuahua cross (voiced by Kevin Hart) and a super-fast tortoise (voiced by Natasha Lyonne) – to save the day. Though the plot inevitably builds towards potential world-ending catastrophe, director Jared Stern delivers the same welcome irreverence he brought to The Lego Batman Movie and there are some amusing gags involving the Keanu Reeves-voiced Caped Crusader.

    DC League of Super Pets

    Weirdly enough Batman and Superman feature in Iranian drama Hit the Road during a subtly mesmerising overhead shot featuring a father (Hasan Majuni) and his irrepressible young son (Ryan Sarlak) lying on the ground joking about the resale value of the Batmobile. The film marks the directorial debut of Panah Panahi, son of the recently arrested Iranian auteur Jafar Panahi (Taxi Tehran), and like Panahi Snr’s politically astute work there’s a sly quality to the film as a whole and this scene in particular, not least when the ground gradually gives way to the stars and the solar system and father and son, still cackling about the Batmobile, are cast adrift in the cosmos, free for a brief instant to indulge in the casually surreal chat of a child.

    For the rest of the film such abandon isn’t possible. Revolving around a family of four undertaking a potentially perilous road trip to the mountains bordering Iran, the film invokes a low-level mood of paranoia and foreboding as it explores the mental gymnastics required to navigate life under a repressive regime. The reason for the journey is revealed incrementally (it involves the family’s eldest son), but again and again Panahi finds clever ways to contrast this bickering yet loving family’s physical and emotional reality, such as the heartbreaking moment he juxtaposes the aforementioned superhero-fuelled flight of fancy with a shot of tears rolling down the face of the boy’s mother (Pantea Panahiha) as she contemplates all she has and all she’s prepared to sacrifice for a slim chance at a better life.

    No such artistry is on display in Joyride, an oddly conceived road-trip comedy about motherhood that plays like a wacky counterpart to star Olivia Colman’s masterful turn in last year’s The Lost Daughter. Colman plays Joy, a sweary Irish solicitor suffering from postpartum depression who finds herself on the run with her new baby and a young teenager called Mully (Charlie Reid) after Mully inadvertently steals the taxi she’s about to take to drop off her unwanted baby en route to a holiday in Lanzarote. Mully has his own hard-luck story involving his feckless father, but he also happens to be a dab hand with babies and bonds with Joy by teaching her how to be a loving, caring, breastfeeding mother.

    As director Emer Reynolds can’t seem to decide how much she wants to bum us out with depictions of mental illness, she has Joy laugh off her own trauma as a goofy psychotic episode and spends much of the film lurching wildly between overblown melodrama and cringe-worthy caper comedy. The latter reaches its nadir when Joy enlists the help of a group of Braveheart-quoting Scots in See-You-Jimmy hats to help her get off an about-to-depart plane. As rubbish as it sounds.

    Hit the Road

    All films on general release from 29 July