Both a romantic drama and a screwball comedy, the film is noted for its display of Moscow sceneries, and for its comical presentation of everyday life and customs of Soviet society during the Era of Stagnation.
The action takes place in Moscow in 1976. Anatoly Yefremovich Novoseltsev, a clumsy single father of two sons, works at a statistical bureau. His boss is a strict unmarried woman, Ludmila Prokofievna Kalugina, nicknamed "our en:frump" by her subordinates. She has some self-confidence problems, hidden behind her gloomy humorless demeanor and plain old-fashioned look. Novoseltsev’s colleagues consider him as a smart and experienced worker. He dreams about promotion and a raise that would help him provide for his children, but he is too timid to talk to his boss about it. His former classmate and old friend, Yuri Grigorievich Samokhvalov, recently appointed assistant manager of the institution, suggests appointing Novoseltsev as a head of the light industry department, but Kalugina rejects it believing that Novoseltsev is not good enough for the position. Then, following Samokhvalov's advice, Novoseltsev tries, rather unwillingly, to flirt lightly with "the Frump" at a party in Samokhvalov's apartment in order to "get into contact" with her. Feeling extremely uneasy he tries in vain to make a conversation with her talking about random things such as mushrooms and poetry, shows off his singing and dancing abilities (in a very comical way), but Kalugina gets annoyed and severely criticizes all his attempts to impress her. Eventually Novoseltsev becomes frustrated, flares up and tells Kalugina right in her face that he considers her dry, inhuman and heartless. Next morning embarrassed Novoseltsev comes to her office to apologize. Kalugina starts reprimanding him but then all of a sudden bursts into tears, revealing that his yesterday accusations hurt her. Novoseltsev is impressed and touched by discovering a delicate side of his boss's personality. They have a heart-to-heart conversation in which Ludmila tells him about her lonely joyless life. From here on they start getting closer and soon fall in love with each other. It transforms both of them. For instance, Kalugina, having thrown off a "protective mask" of a hard-hearted woman, becomes more aware of her femininity and surprises everyone with her new elegant clothes and charming look.
As the relationship between Anatoly and Ludmila evolves, full of comical situations and repartees, a drama unfolds between Olga Ryzhova and Yuri Samokhvalov who were dating many years ago at a university. Now both of them have families but Olga's romantic feelings are revived after meeting Samokhvalov at the office. However, he treats her just like a friend. She begins to write him love letters, which she passes to him through Verochka, an energetic and overly curious secretary. She accidentally finds one of the letters on Samokhvalov's desk, reads it and tells about what she found out to her colleague, and thus the whole staff of the bureau starts gossiping about Olga's "immoral behavior". Moreover, Samokhvalov, tired of the wave of love letters, tells about the situation to the meddlesome Shura, a local labor union committee activist and the biggest talebearer of the institution. He gives her the letters and asks her to sort out the problem at the session of the committee. Kalugina learns about it, reproaches Samokhvalov and convinces him to solve the problem individually.
Novoseltsev, Ryzhova's good friend, also learns about Samokhvalov's actions, gets angry and slaps him in the face in front of Kalugina, to which Samokhvalov promises to hit back, but in another way. So when he gets to know that Kalugina and Novoseltsev have begun a love affair, he discloses Novoseltsev's initial "plan" to Kalugina. She is shocked and wants to give up Novoseltsev. She calls him up to her office, tells him about her decision to appoint him as head of the light industry department and to end their relationship, because she knows that he started courting her merely on purpose to get the appointment. Novoseltsev feels ashamed and admits that it was indeed started purely for mercenary reasons, but insists that he has grown to love her. Kalugina brushes him off. In his turn he rejects the appointment and tenders his resignation. Kalugina refuses to dismiss Novoseltsev to spite him. They have a fiery argument which results in a noisy scuffle right in the office. Everything ends up as Novoseltsev, trying to escape from furious Ludmila, runs out of the building, jumps on a back seat of a car (that turns out to be Kalugina's service vehicle with a personal chauffeur), she follows him and showers blows and curses upon him, but Novoseltsev manages to soothe her, and they are seen hugging and kissing as the car goes down the road. A subtitle suggests that already in 9 months there will be three boys in Novoseltsev's family, i.e. Anatoly and Ludmila will later have a mutual son.
Ryzhova, broken-hearted and humiliated, asks Samokhvalov to return the letters to her and gets back to her normal life.
Office Romance was a Soviet hit movie in 1978 having 58.4 million viewers, and still remains one of the most popular Soviet-era films in Russia and other former Soviet republics. Alisa Freindlich and Andrey Myagkov were named Best Actors of the year by readers of Soviet Screen Magazine (Советский Экран, Sovetsky Ekran).
The film received general approval from critics; there was not one negative review of the film. High artistical level, skills and organic collaboration of director and actors were noted, as well as vivid portrayal of Moscow, comic elements in parallel with investigation of moral issues.
Members of the State Art Council nominated the leading actors for the State Prize of USSR. Alisa Freindlich was the one who didn't receive the Prize - according to the rules of that time, an actor couldn't be given a new Prize earlier than two years after getting the previous one. And Freindlich had already been awarded for her stage performance a year before the release of the film.
The songs from the film, performed by Alisa Freindlich and Andrey Myagkov, became hits in the USSR.
|Andrey Myagkov||Anatoly Yefremovich Novoseltsev|
|Alisa Freindlich||Ludmila Prokofievna Kalugina|
|Oleg Basilashvili||Yuri Grigoryevich Samokhvalov|
|Svetlana Nemolyayeva||Olga Petrovna Ryzhova|
|Liya Akhedzhakova||Secretary Verochka|
|Ludmila Ivanova||Labor Union Activist Shura|
|Georgi Burkov||Logistics Manager|
|Pyotr Shcherbakov||Pyotr Ivanovich Bublikov|
|Nelly Pshennaya||Samokhvalov's wife|
|Alik Denisov||Vova Novoseltsev|