Once in a while, an actor comes along with a natural talent that can carry a film that would otherwise be unwatchable. Not that Candice Mana Ono’s debut feature “Lovely Little Ai” falls into that category, but this quirky, patchy coming-of-age movie is a showcase for star Akane Sakanoue, playing a teen a decade younger than her 26 years.

Appearing in almost every scene, Sakanoue performs the title character’s transition from a good-girl loner to a free-spirited social butterfly with no signs of strain, in contrast to some of her scenery-chewing fellow thespians. As the film begins, protagonist Ai could be labeled a Japanese version of Hollywood’s manic pixie dream girl: Cute, odd and effervescent. But as played by Sakanoue, she begins to develop a will of her own, going beyond stereotypes and never becoming an annoyance.

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