Anatoly (Andrey Myagkov, who also starred in The Irony of Fate) is a nebbishy divorced man, now a single father to two boys. He is stuck in a mid-level job at the Statistics Bureau in Moscow, and he is regarded with complete indifference by his boss, the forbidding Ice Queen Ludmilla (Alisa Freindlich). No one likes Ludmilla, and the workers all call her "the Hag" behind her back.
Anatoly gets a major career break when his old friend Yuri comes back from two years working in Switzerland and gets a management position at the Statistics Bureau. He tries to get Ludmilla to give his buddy Anatoly a promotion, but Ludmilla, who is not at all impressed by a slapdash report handed in by Anatoly, shoots that idea down quickly. Yuri recommends a different tactic: he will host a party at his home for everyone in the office, and while there Anatoly will start romancing the spinsterish Ludmilla, hoping to get her to fall for him and thus advance his career. Anatoly's clumsy attempts at wooing Ludmilla end in catastrophic failure, with an angry Anatoly telling Ludmilla that he finds her "dry, inhuman, and heartless."
Anatoly comes to the office the next day expecting to be fired. But his closing insult hit home with Ludmilla, who as it happens is desperately lonely and is rocked to find out that no one in the office likes her. She calls Anatoly into her office to deny that she is inhuman or heartless. A surprising bond begins to form between the two.
A subplot involves Olga, another worker in the office and an old lover of Yuri's, once a beauty but now well into middle age. She's married but she still wants to start things up with Yuri again.
- Abhorrent Admirer: For all that Yuri isnt the nicest of men, Olga isnt blameless: she stalks him relentlessly, sending love letters and keeping watch at the door of his office. Even after he gently tries to let her down, she continues it. Only afterwards does he snap and reveals her letters to the entire department.
- Berserk Button: When Ludmilla summons Anatoly to her office to deny his resignation, their dialogue is still controlled, but strained. Then Anatoly, in a fit of anger, blurts out the snide nickname everyone in the office has been calling Ludmilla behind her back, and she loses it. Chaos literally ensues, culminating in the "Shut Up" Kiss inside Ludmilla's car.
- Creator Cameo: Eldar Ryazanov did this in most of his movies. Here he's a passenger on a bus.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Ludmilla's character arc. Her formerly cold and distant manner starts cracking right around the time she bursts into tears after summoning Anatoly to her office. She's shy and tentative as their romance blooms, eventually revealing that she once loved a man who dumped her and married her friend.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: Ludmilla has a severe swept-back hair style that is part of her intimidating Ice Queen persona. Vera advises her to ditch it, and sure enough when Anatoly comes over for their date Ludmilla has a much more flattering, feminine upswept hairstyle.
- I Have This Friend...: Ludmilla's very obvious excuse when she goes to Vera for advice about The Makeover, claiming that she has a relative coming in from out of town who wants to know what's fashionable in dress and hairstyles. Vera is not fooled but indulges her boss.
- In Love with the Mark: Sort of. Yuri encourages Anatoly to flirt with Ludmilla in order to get a promotion. Anatoly's first attempt ends in disaster; later, as he develops a genuine connection with her, he's clearly forgotten his original purpose.
- Married to the Job: Ludmilla, although it eventually becomes clear that she's really married to the job because she's so lonely.
- Office Romance: Why yes! Ludmilla is hesitant, thinking that at 36 she's too old to be a catch. Anatoly for his part is also hesitant, having been burned by a bad marriage, and with two kids at home.
- Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ludmilla's driver takes the car off down a Moscow street while Anatoly and Ludmilla kiss in the back seat.
- Old Maid: What Ludmilla fears becoming, which is why her Ice Queen veneer cracks when Anatoly challenges her.Ludmilla: And I've made myself an old woman. When I'm only 36.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Shura the accountant reports that Peter is dead. She takes up yet another collection, irritating her co-workers. There are flowers and a picture of Peter up by the time that he rolls in and is greatly surprised. Turns out it was a different Peter Bublikov.
- Running Gag
- Peter, head of the catering department, has a desk by the stairs. He can't stop himself from staring at the calves of the young ladies walking up the staircase.
- Shura the accountant, who keeps annoying people with her collections for birthday gifts or get-well gifts or the like.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: Having just received word that his older son threw a cat in a drainpipe, Anatoly is hurriedly leaving the apartment along with Ludmilla. He's helping her into her coat when they embrace. Her coat hits the floor. His glasses hit the floor. The movie cuts to the next scene.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Ludmilla goes to Vera, her secretary, and asks for advice on how to make herself over. Vera notes Ludmilla's soldier-like walk and tells her to swing her hips in a more feminine manner.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: How Anatoly finally ends the argument with Ludmilla in the back seat of the car, as she's still whacking him in the head and yelling how much she hates him.
- Smug Snake: For all his cheerful manner and bonhomie, it eventually becomes clear that Yuri is this. He flashes his success in front of the others by showing all the Western goods he's acquired. He ends up revealing to the entire institution that Olga writes him love letters.
- Standard Office Setting: People sit on chairs in an office. It's a good setting for gossip and romance.
- That Russian Squat Dance: After Anatoly's various lame attempts to interest Ludmilla at the party—talking about mushrooms, talking about berries, reciting his old poetry—all fail, he resorts to this in frustration and desperation. And it's pretty ridiculous, since he's a middle-class office drone rather than a peasant. The ruckus he makes triggers the confrontation that leads to him insulting her.
- Title Drop: "An office romance," says an irritated Yuri when he finds out that Anatoly and Ludmilla had sex the night before. He then acts to sabotage it.
- The Voice: Vera's husband. One minor subplot has their whole relationship playing out via phone calls she keeps getting at the office.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Soon after Anatoly slaps Yuri for exposing Olga's love letters to the latter to the office, Yuri discloses to Ludmilla that Anatoly had initially romanced her for a promotion (omitting, of course, the fact that he was the one who suggested it to Anatoly in the first place).
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A graphic at the end of the movie reveals that nine months later, Anatoly and Ludmilla had three boys.