Just as “Yellowjackets” gradually builds its gripping mystery, Lynskey is an expert at subtly modulating her performance. She is like a volcano — a simmering rage beneath her smooth, deliberate surface just waiting to erupt. Much like Pauline, Shauna has a hidden dark side that clashes with her suburban life, a secret desire for sexual and violent transgressions. Shauna indulges in reckless behavior such as masturbating to a photo of her daughter’s boyfriend, getting drunk, and cheating on her husband. She can also bone a carcass with terrifying ease.
In “Heavenly Creatures,” the young Lynskey established that she could carry such roles. Pauline’s wildness unleashes a greater force, as if she were an animal locked in a cage that is finally set free. Pauline is another female character who opposes traditional femininity with her kinky humor when creating lecherous stories with Juliet about a sexual and violent royal family.
Lynskey solidifies how well she can can create vicious characters, plainly spitting out wicked lines such as “I am writing a little of this up on the morning before the death [of her mother]. I felt very excited and the night-before-Christmas-ish last night.” Her phony sweetness when she offers her mother a pastry at tea time, knowing this will be her last meal, is unsettling. It comes from the same dark place as her sharp delivery of “I don’t even like my daughter” during a brunch scene in “Yellowjackets.”