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.
In 2011, a remake titled Office Romance: Present Day was released.
- 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.
- Anatoly at first when he awkwardly flirts with Ludmilla after being egged on by Yuri. He tries and fails to engage her in boring random topics like mushrooms, recites poetry by Boris Pasternak which he tries to pass on as his own, and demonstrates terrible singing skills, all to try and woo her. It backfires spectacularly.
- Accidental Misnaming: Anatoly and Ludmilla sometimes mix up each other's name and patronymic when nervous ("Prokopia Ludmillovna" and "Yefrem Anatolyevich" instead of Ludmila Prokofievna and Anatoly Yefremovich, respectively).
- 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.
- Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Samokhvalov just loves to brag about his time working in Switzerland.
- Married to the Job: Ludmilla, although it eventually becomes clear that she's really married to the job because she's so lonely.
- Meaningful Name: Yuri Samokhvalov's surname means "braggart", which he totally is.
- 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. Hilarity Ensues when Ludmilla overdoes it at first, causing Vera to remind her not to walk like a harlot.
- "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.
Tropes exclusive to the 2011 remake:
- Adaptational Alternate Ending: The film does appear to closely follow the original's plot, down to the ending. Then, Tolya says that this would be how it would end 30 years ago. A whole other plot is revealed where a rival of Ludmilla's turns out to have planted Yuri into her organization to ruin her reputation with a fake sex tape. That plan almost succeeds but is thwarted in the last minute.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Most of the cast, especially the women. Ludmilla especially is portrayed as beautiful from the start, but very straight-laced, so she doesn't undergo any makeover beyond just loosening up. Together with an Age Lift.
- Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: The character dynamic is changed so that several relationships are a case of this trope:
- Samokhvalov, instead of humiliating Olya, uses her crush to seduce her. It is part of a whole other plot where he has her impersonate Ludmilla in a sex tape to ruin her reputation. This also means that the reason for his falling out with Anatoli isn't how he treated Olya but the result of Anatoli seeing him and "Ludmilla" having sex.
- The above also affects Ludmilla and Anatoly's Second-Act Breakup. Also, while she is annoyed when she finds out through the children's words that Anatoly used to call her "Grump" in private, she doesn't make much of it and quickly forgives him. It helps that Anatoly's crush on her was genuine from the start and he never planned to romance her to get a promotion.
- Adaptational Skill: Or rather, adaptational transfer of lack of skill. Whereas in the original it's Ludmilla who gets some much-needed fashion advice, now it's Anatoly.
- Adaptational Location Change: Ludmilla and Anatoly's heart-to-heart conversation happens in a sky tram cart which gets stuck for a while.
- But Not Too Gay: The movie has been updated to feature some instances of non-traditional masculinity, but toned down so as to not cause issues with Russian media watchdogs:
Vadik: Sorry I'm nervous, Tolya, you're my first. First male customer.Tolya: You're also my first. I mean, fashion guru.
- Camp Straight: Vadik, Ludmilla's secretary, is presented as Camp Gay. At the end, his "little badger" he spends a huge amount of time talking to over the phone turns out to be a woman, and another woman is shocked that Vadik has been cheating on her with the Badger. Ludmilla comments that "that's the last thing she expected of him".
- Bait-and-Switch Lesbians: A male example with Vadik when he gives Tolya fashion advice:
- Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Ludmilla maintains the appearance of a steely, straight-laced businesswoman glaring at everyone through her thick-rimmed glasses. Also, she attends a business motivation talk and the lecturer, who fanatically advocates for the abandoning of any attachments or distractions in the name of career, also wears glasses and has the typical "cold, evil intellectual" appearance and manners.
- Foreshadowing: Ludmilla attends a seminar on how to be a corporate "shark". The lecturer gives a description of sharks and how they are always moving, always need to eat other animals and have no friends. She isn't a shark, but Samokhvalov is. Later Anatoly even tells him "he was never great at having friends".
- Gender Flip:
- Anatoli's kids are now girls instead of boys.
- Vera, Ludmilla's secretary, is now Vadim. He's Camp Straight and just as vain.
- Kids Play Matchmaker: Anatoli's daughters help fix his breakup with Ludmilla, with some help from Vadik.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Ludmilla initially wears hers in a tight bun, but after loosening up changes it to cascading curls. In the original, she used to wear her Power Hair short.
- Married to the Job: Ludmilla tends to be like this, even later on. When the two go to a party and she's constantly on the phone talking business, Anatoli gets fed up and stars showing party tricks to some women. A jealous Ludmilla arrives:Ludmilla: Alright, magician, time to go.Anatoly: Sorry, ladies, that's my bossLudmilla: He's just kidding, I'm his girlfriend.
- Nervous Wreck: Ludmilla is portrayed as a high-functioning perfectionist even more so than her 1977 version, but it also takes less to drive her into a breakdown.
- Not His Sled: Lampshaded by Anatoly In-Universe. After a scene in the office closely following the original in which he and Ludmilla chase each other around, fighting and throwing things at each other, he storms out, she catches him in a cab and they kiss, he says to the public that this is how it would have ended 30 years ago. The movie then rewinds back and shows some additional context to explain the further plot.
- Putting on the Reich: The sociopathic lecturer of Ludmilla's business management course who preaches utter abandonment of any attachments in the name of career, at one point launches into a tirade and stretches his right arm forward in something very similar to a Hitler salute.
- Rule of Pool: How the initial scene of Anatoly embarrassing himself and Ludmilla is played - he gets drunk and knocks her into a pool.
- Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Tolya and Ludmilla when they're each shown walking alone in the rain after their breakup:Tolya: How could you!Ludmilla: How could you!Tolya: How could you do this!Ludmilla: How could you believe this!Tolya: I saw it with my own eyes!Ludmilla: I don't even look like her!Tolya: And with whom!Ludmilla: And with that creep, Samokhvalov!Tolya: Sure, he's charming...Ludmilla: And this after...Tolya: After what we have!Ludmilla: Had!Ludmilla: Fine then, you have your daughters!Tolya: Fine, you'll fine someone else!Ludmilla: Go to hell!