The second act of the movie “8 First Dates” is the morning after meeting of a veterinarian and a television star who wake up in bed in a model home in a mall filled with 15-foot matryoshka dolls. Although they spent the night celebrating separate but parallel pre-wedding revels in the same music-filled bar, we have no better idea of how they go there than do they.

The 2012 film, “8 First Meetings,” was written by Ekaterina Gordetskaya, Andrey Yakovlev, and the comedy team at Studio Kvartal 95. It stars Oksana Akinshina as Vera the TV star, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the veterinarian Nikita.

I watched this romantic comedy during a late-December windstorm, holed up in my apartment preparing for holiday travel. Two days earlier I had streamed the leading man’s address to the US Congress, pondering the true nature of the comedic genius turned wartime president.

Early in December another comic, David Letterman, flew to Poland and took a train to Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy for an interview that was held in an underground station before a small audience.

Matryoshka dolls, often called Russian dolls, are those in which one hollow doll sits inside of another, inside of another, and so on. Like many European ideas, these carved wooden nesting toys originated in the Far East. Early examples can be found in China and Japan; nowadays they are made just about everywhere. The name matryoshka is derived from a Russian word for mother.

Zelenskyy addresses the Russian habit of co-opting other cultures in his Letterman interview, speaking of the narrative the Kremlin propagates – that whatever was once conquered should always remain in the domain of the subjugator.

In the interview, the president comes across relaxed, humble and sincere, alternating between speaking his native language and occasional comments in English. There are subtitles for those of us who do not speak Ukrainian.

There’s a sensory deprivation that happens when you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language. It can be uncomfortable, and even scary, but sometimes it opens the mind to other ways of perceiving.

Interspersed with the interview are segments in which the Letterman visits neighborhoods where the damage of war is evident, including a public square where heroic statues have been wrapped in sandbags, taking on the appearance of giant Michelin-Matryoshkas.

Back on the subway platform, Letterman describes the plot of “Servant of the People,” the Kvartal 95 television show in which Zelenskyy plays a high school teacher, vaulted into his country’s highest office after a student’s viral video shows him venting about government corruption.

“And then,” Letterman says, “that kind of happens. With that plot line of the show, was that decided to get you into the office of president? Was it… It can’t… Is it just pure coincidence?”

Zelenskyy’s response in Ukrainian, conveyed through the translator was this:

“I don’t think I can calculate everything to such an extent. To be honest with you, just between us, no one should know about that. Maybe after my presidency is over, I will be able to answer that question.”

Certainly, the trajectory of his career, from standup and sketch comedy to television and movie fame and on to the cover of Time Magazine, seems a bit too perfect to be anything but well-thought-out.

Back in the rom-com world of “8 First Dates” Vera and Nikita find themselves faced with an inexplicable set of circumstances. Each day they go through their separate lives. Each night they go to sleep in their own beds. They pass within feet of each other on the street and have no point of contact. And then, each morning, they wake up in bed together. Every day their awakening is more intimate and soon they are unable to continue the lives they thought were inevitable.

All this in Ukrainian, without subtitles.

I tried to find a version of the movie that was translated. In the end I just watched and noticed.

I find myself in a similar situation as I try to unwrap the puzzle that is Volodymyr Zelenskyy, this man who has become a hero to the world, who masters comedy and lives within tragedy.
On Dec. 21, the Ukrainian president spoke before a joint session of Congress, describing a war that is fought in the mind as much as on the ground, one in which missiles and ideas compete to master the airspace.

The end of “8 First Dates” brings its protagonists back to the mall, now empty of shoppers and music. Nikolai and Vera wander among the giant matryoshka dolls, searching for and missing one another. I will not give away the ending, but it is a romantic comedy. You can probably figure out what happens, more or less.

Not so the drama that is Zelenskyy’s current story, and ours as well. Whether we understand the words or are relying on our other senses, we all wait for that denouement together. Sometimes the doll at the center of the puzzle is solid. Sometimes it is hollow, leaving you to wonder what fits inside.