It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The unexamined mystery at the heart of "Different for Girls'' is--what, exactly, does Paul see in Kim? Paul is a rowdy motorbike messenger who roars through the streets and punk clubs of London. Kim, whose name was once Karl, is a postoperative transsexual. "I am straight, you know,'' Paul tells Kim. "So am I,'' she replies.
They knew each other 16 years ago, at a boarding school, and the opening titles include a flashback to those days. Karl is taunted in the shower by his gay-bashing schoolmates, and Paul gallantly comes to the rescue. When they meet again after a minor traffic accident, Paul recognizes the former Karl almost at once, but Kim--as she now is--at first denies they knew each other.
Of course they did. But in what way? Was Paul (Rupert Graves) sexually attracted to Karl in his school days? Or is he fascinated only now, by the unexplored country of gender swapping? He asks Kim (Steven Mackintosh) out for lunch, and then causes a scene that cuts the date short (deliberately, Kim senses). He apologizes with flowers and asks her out again, but it's clear he's deeply conflicted: He is attracted to this mannish woman, but reluctant to admit it, to her or to himself.
"Different for Girls'' follows the time-honored conventions of the romantic comedy, in which opposites attract despite obstacles. Paul is macho, he already has a girlfriend, he likes loud music, he gets drunk. Kim wants to blend in and disappear. Even her clothes give that message: She wears the sorts of conservative fashions a nun might choose as civilian garb. If it's a mystery what Paul thinks of her, it's a puzzle why she's attracted to him. Immature and reckless, he lands them both in jail one night by exposing himself in public (not as a sexual act, but to make a point during a drunken rant).