Since the very beginning of his career Richard Linklater has had the startling ability to find emotional and intellectual complexity in the most unlikely of places. His debut Slacker (1991) for instance, immersed itself in the eponymous subculture and drew philosophical musings on UFOs and unfounded conspiracy theories from a group of singed bohemian weirdoes. He was able to turn a sequence concerning a twenty-something trying her hardest to sell Madonna's Pap smear into a lo-fi vehicle for ideas on celebrity and the divide between culture and counterculture, somehow.

Since then, Linklater has jumped from subculture to subculture, era to era, and country to country, drawing universal themes from sources as disparate as a battle of the bands competition (School of Rock - 2003), a mortician turned murderer (Bernie - 2011) and simply walking around a city at night (Before Sunrise - 1995). Though the settings, characters, and quality may differ vastly, and the tone and genre can vary between each film, this innate capacity to lend importance to seemingly improbable stories has been the directors defining skill throughout.

Everybody Wants Some!! then, is a continuation of this remarkable streak, containing an observation of the oft-maligned 'Jock' and fraternity cultures. Touted as a spiritual successor to fan favourite Dazed and Confused (1993), where he had previously, albeit briefly, explored the clique, EWS! dedicates its running time to the questions of identity thrown up by the independence of university life. Set over the course of three days and centred around the exploits of the college baseball team, Linklater's follow up to the widely celebrated Boyhood (2014) may lack the ground-breaking formal element and massive emotional scope of its predecessor, but equals, if not betters, it in terms of sheer likeability.

When we think of the jock we perhaps jump to the caricature of beer kegs, misogyny and low IQs, and in some cases this will have been largely accurate. However, as with any other widely spread stereotype, there is a degree of simplicity to it. Sure, being wildly popular, handsome and athletic may go some way to instil a sense of arrogance and egotism into a person, but it is not a given - something Linklater explores in fine, joyous detail.

EWS!! is a film that ruminates over of all the elements of the subculture: The inherent competitiveness of college sports, the macho posturing necessary to gain the respect of your peers, the forays into debauchery, and the ever present temptation of the hot girl, plus many more. However, the masterstroke is the way that all the antics, jokes, pranks and lust is underpinned by a real consideration of the value of clique identity. For a film that primarily orbits 'the jock', we are also gifted thoughtful insights into the punks, the performance artists, the rednecks, and even the stragglers who feel like they don't fit anywhere. A condensed lesson in simply being yourself and dressing, acting, and doing what makes you feel like you belong.

With a script that sings with existential flair and performances as bright as the actor's perfect smiles, EWS!! is no doubt a worthy successor to Dazed and Confused, acting as an expansion pack of sorts to what is often cited as Linklater's most endearing film. And though the themes, ideas and cinematic style may be comparable, it never feels as if he is repeating himself or attempting to cash in on D&C's legacy. Quite the achievement when you think about it.

Linklater's commercial success caught up to his indie credentials around a decade ago now, but in a rare achievement, he has managed to maintain a balance of populist draw and critical acclaim. EWS!! seems to be him recognising, accepting and working in line with this idea, and in the future we may return to it as the perfect entry point to a stunning filmography. Equal parts fun, intellectual, touching, charming, introspective, and bombastic, what could have easily been a comedy as dumb as the stereotype it explores instead turns out to be one of its directors most thoughtful and outright enjoyable films yet.